Disclaimer: I don’t own any of them – Buffy and the gang belong to Joss. Tarzan, Jane and the rest of his family were created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Wold Newton family was crafted by Philip Jose Farmer and is probably the greatest crossover universe ever
The demon had devastated the small village, leaving little more than the foundations of huts, a scattering of ashes from the cooking fires and a few bloodied bones tumbled among the debris. It looked as if the Tagati who’d summoned the thing had been its first victim; the tribe’s belief that they would be immune to the beast’s depravations had been as erroneous as their attempt to call on it in the first place. I suppose
, Xander thought as he picked his way through the gory and stomach churning remnants of the witch doctor’s hut, they had reason to be mad at those rebel soldiers because they raped all their women and forcibly recruited all the young men to their cause. But you’re never gonna solve human evil by calling on demonic forces, no matter what the legends say …
“Xander?” Giles was crouched by the side of the hut, examining what little remained of the misguided tribal sorcerer – which was primarily the old man’s right hand, still curled around his carefully crafted staff. “You did say these people called upon Bomazi to be their protector, didn’t you?”
“Uh …” Xander side-stepped a particularly gory bit and hastened to his mentor’s side. “Yeah. Least – that’s what the trader said. Back at the way station.”
“Then why,” Giles wondered, carefully picking up the staff and just as carefully shaking it free from death stiffened fingers, “is this
inscribed with prayers to Anansi?”
Xander shrugged. “Hedging his bets?” A pause and then he added: “Trying to fool the beast into thinking he was someone he wasn’t?”
“Ahh.” The frown that followed that idea was both familiar and reassuring. Not that Xander felt the vaguest bit nervous, given that there were two Slayers currently patrolling the periphery of the village, and Tarzan was out there, somewhere, tracking the beast to wherever it had decided to lair up during the day. But knowing that Giles was there, working on solving the magical end of this particular equation was still a comfort. One he hadn’t realised he’d missed until now.
“You may be right,” the Watcher decided, straightening up and studying the staff with a wary eye. “I think this was meant to deceive the creature into thinking he
was Bomazi - although why he didn’t just summon a straightforward vengeance demon is beyond me.”
“I’m not sure D’Hoffren’s people do
Africa,” Xander said, glancing around in case mentioning the demon lord by name attracted unwanted attention. “I mean – I’ve never run into any of them out here. And they were very … solicitous, back in the States. I kept meeting them in the weirdest places …”
“Which is one of the reasons I sent you out here in the first place,” Giles noted abstractedly. “You didn’t need that kind of attention, no matter how well meant it was … Do you feel that?”
“Feel what?” Xander frowned at his friend, not sure whether to be surprised that someone had noticed his seemingly endless encounters with demons wanting to help him deal with his grief over Anya, annoyed that he might have been dispatched to the dark continent for reasons other than his bravery and competency, or touched that – despite the many pressures and problems Giles had faced since their battle with the First – the man had found the time to instigate actions that helped deal with someone else’s
problems too. Especially when they’d never asked for or expected help in the first place …
“That …uh … skin crawling, shivering sensation. As if there’s … static or something in the air.”
Xander glanced round, seeing nothing but the ruined hut, the scattered remains and the buzz of flies settling on the blood soaked ground. “Nope,” he said, shaking his head. “No skin crawling here. Or there,” he half quipped, nodding towards some of the more gory remnants.
“I should hope not,” Giles countered archly, his expression somewhat pained. Xander grimaced. The joke had
been in very bad taste.
“Sorry,” he said. “But – you know me. Gotta laugh, or …”
“I know.” The smile he got was brief, but warmly affectionate. It was followed by a shudder and an anxious frown. “There is definitely something … not right, here. The magic was disrupted, the spell incomplete. I think …” Giles took a wary step closer to the centre of the hut and stared down at the smudged and bloodstained markings that patterned the floor. “The gateway he opened is still
open. Just a crack. And something’s trying to get in. “ His frown deepened. “Or out …
“Oh, that ain’t good,” Xander decided. “You want me to call the girls? Or see if I can get Tarzan back?”
“Just …” The Watcher hunkered down, comparing symbols on the floor with those on the staff. “Tell them to keep their eyes open. And to use all
their senses, not just the ones they were born with?”
“Will do.” Xander’s response was reflex flippancy, and the grin that he wore as he headed out into the square had a lot more to do with the slightly pained tone with which the reminder was delivered as it did with the words themselves. He was all too familiar with that quiet frustration – the need to keep reminding some very special young women that they were
special, and their gifts were there to be used, rather abused, ignored or taken too much for granted. Giles’ long suffering patience had once amused him. These days he admired it, finding himself far less willing to endure the frivolous attitudes some Slayers seemed to develop towards their destined duties. If he’d
been Buffy’s Watcher, back in the days of ‘one slayer to a generation’ he’d have probably lost his temper – or his mind – long before graduation day. But Giles had somehow held things together, and was still
holding it together, despite the fact that the potential for vexation had increased a thousandfold.
And here he was, taking time that was supposed to be a vacation
, to assist with a rather nasty piece of demonic difficulty.
The lure of Tarzan’s archive photos of Ophar might be strong, but his love of history and his hunger for arcane learning automatically took a back seat when it came to matters of destined duty – and there was nothing and no-one that could have persuaded him to stay back at the compound after both Nuala and Ryoko woke screaming from their matching dreams. Jane had tried, the goddess bless her; her version of resolve face
was almost as unarguable as Willow’s. Xander suspected she’d mastered the look while using it to counter some of Tarzan’s wild impetuosities – and on most people it would have worked like a charm. But Giles was made of sterner stuff, a Watcher tempered by experiences that would have left most people gibbering – and he had the advantage of having faced down Willow Rosenberg in her darkest moments. Nothing short of knocking him senseless would keep him from taking action when innocents were being threatened.
Xander had briefly toyed with the idea of asking their host to do just that: neither of them liked the idea of dragging the man into dangerous and unfamiliar territory barely days after he’d arrived in the country. He even suspected that Tarzan had been tempted to take the necessary steps without any prompting on his behalf, but in the end both of them had acquiesced to the Watcher’s demands to join the safari, and they hadn’t had cause to regret it. Yet.
Although if anything did happen to him, Xander was quite sure he’d regret it for the rest of his life.
The elder of the two Slayers turned at his call and waved. She was a striking dark skinned young woman – a daughter of one of Tarzan’s Wazuri as it happened, although she’d been born in Nairobi and orphaned shortly thereafter. It had been her quest to find her natural family that had led her and Xander to the Clayton compound and from there to Tarzan himself.
“Registering anything on the old spidy sense?”
Nuala frowned for a moment, took a slow turn through 360 degrees, then shook her head. “Background static is a little high,” she reported, cautiously making her way back to the centre of the village. “Traces of demonic energy. Echoes of old screams …”
“Right,” Xander interrupted, knowing better than to linger on that
kind of thought. “Nothing specific, just Hellmouthy type weirdness.” He snorted deprecatingly. “Like being back in old SunnyD.”
Ryoko appeared from behind the ruins of a much mangled hut, shading her eyes from the sun as she studied the shimmering horizon across the veldt . “Xan-san,” she chided softly, lowering her hand and giving him a disapproving look. “you are disrespectful Watcher. You read too much manga magazine. Should read more dusty tome. Like Giles-sensei. Learn to speak English good.”
“I speak American good,” Xander countered, knowing she was teasing him. “English … not so much so. And there’s not much call for dusty tome around here … it’s all blood magic and carved bone,” he added, half under his breath. The place was starting to get to him, and not just because of the thick scent of blood and the equally thick buzz of flies. Echoes of old screams
, Nuala had said. If they hung around the village much longer he suspected he was going to start hearing them …
Nuala had better eyes than he had – not to mention twice the number. It took him a moment to spot the lithely muscled figure that was moving across the veldt towards them with the easy – and deceptive – grace of a leopard. Tarzan had gone hunting the way he preferred; stripped down, but armed and dangerous. Tanned skin gleamed with a hint of sweat beneath the beat of the sun as the apeman loped through the scrubby bush; light caught and flashed from the knife strapped to his right thigh, and glimmered among the arrow shafts that clustered in the quiver at his back. They were modern, aluminium shafted arrows, made to compliment the equally modern composite bow slung over his shoulder; they were lighter, more accurate and decidedly more powerful than the native bows that decorated his trophy room back at the compound, and it hadn’t taken much for Jane to persuade him that he needed that edge if he were hunting demons rather than game.
“Doesn’t look as if he found anything.” Xander found that a little worrying. Even an amateur hunter should have been able to track a twenty to thirty foot snake demon through the bush; Tarzan was far from being an amateur – and if he’d
lost the trail, then the beast they were looking for had to be much sneakier than they’d first thought.
“That not good,” Ryoko decided. “Giles-san say beast still here by sundown then – “
“- we get two beasts, then four, then eight. Yeah, yeah, I know, I know … Hey, Zan!” Xander stepped forward and waved to attract the approaching apeman’s attention.
“Xan!” Tarzan called back with a grin, hurdling the crude low fence that circled the compound and pounding up the dusty slope to join them. “I take it it hasn’t got back here yet?”
“Back?” Xander blinked at him, then realised what he meant. “Shit
– it’s coming back?
“Yes.” Tarzan was barely winded by his run, which would have had any normal man panting and gasping for breath. “I think it’s hunting down the village cattle – there was a carcass … well,” he grimaced, “ the remains
of a carcass down by the river bed. The tracks of the herd circled round, and so did the blood trail. Panicked cattle seek the safety of their kraal
– so I thought I’d better get back and warn you it was on its way.”
“Shit,” Xander breathed a second time. They’d been expecting the thing to be seeking somewhere to lair up – somewhere where it could sleep off its meal of villagers and village while planning its next rampage. Had that been the case, they’d have had a good chance of dealing with it while it slept – and before it had a chance to ... what was the term Giles used? ‘Reproduce cytokinetically?’ Spilt itself in half, basically – the somewhat horrific image Ryoko had proffered when describing her dream. Cutting it into pieces wasn’t going to be enough. They were going to have to burn
it – and he had a land rover packed with thermite ready to do just that. But clearly the thing hadn’t finished this
rampage yet – and here he was, standing in the middle of its hunting ground with little more than a hunting bow, a couple of machetes and his trusty semi-automatic for protection.
Along with two Slayers and the Lord of the Jungle, of course. They’d
probably be safe enough. Tarzan could certainly take care of himself, and Nuala and Ryoko were seasoned demon hunters – but this thing had taken down an entire village
in less than an hour, and right now Xander was beginning to suspect they might be on the menu for desert.
From the huffing, roaring sound coming up the valley there wouldn’t even be time to warn Giles that everything was about to hit the fan. He hoped a man with the field experience that the head of the Council had was going to have the sense to keep his head down and stay out of sight in the hut …
“This thing hunts by scent, doesn’t it,” he realised, earning himself a tense nod from Tarzan.
“Scent, heat and sound,” the apeman said grimly. “I saw it from up on the ridge. It’s just as Nuala described – the creature in her dream. Snake like – but with writhing arms that can seize and tear. It has a mouth like a river lamprey – and no eyes at all.”
“Sound …” Xander breathed, looking round for inspiration. There wasn’t a lot they could do about their scent - not after hours in the African sun - and heat wasn’t going to help them much either. They had no time to light a fire, and, even if they could, it was unlikely that it would burn hot enough to distract the thing from tender prey. “What if we confuse it – keep it off balance somehow? Would that give you time to get in a decent shot or two?”
Tarzan shrugged. “It might. But I doubt that an arrow will do it much damage – even one of these. We need to tether it – contain it. Then we can use the thermite.”
“Yeah …” Xander glanced at Nuala. “Can you shimmy up that tree over there? Shake the branches? Make a lot of noise?” She was moving almost before he’s finshed the question, running agilely up the angled wall of a demolished hut so that she could use it as a spring board to leap into the angled branches he’d been indicating. That hadn’t been quite what he meant, but it certainly got her where he needed her to be. “Ryoko – run to the jeep, bring back all the rope you can find. And the tow chain, if you can manage it.”
She grinned, and he rolled his good eye, realising what he’d just said. She was a Slayer.
Of course she could manage it. She sprinted away with determination, leaving him and Tarzan to face the now rapidly approaching demon. It was just as big and ugly as the girls had described it; twenty five to thirty feet long, a thick, muscular torso with two tails at one end and a bulbous head and tentacle like arms at the other. The head was mostly mouth, filled with circles of curved teeth. The ‘arms’ actually ran down either side of its body, one after the other, just like the extended oars of a Viking ship; the ones closest to the tail end were striking at the ground and propelling the whole thing forward with disconcerting speed.
,” Xander swore. “And I thought the Mayor was ugly …”
“Get back,” Tarzan advised, unlimbering his bow. “It moves fast – and its reach is long.”
Xander did as he was advised, tugging the gun from his belt and risking a quick glance at the Tagati’s hut on the other side of the square. There was no sign of the khaki clad Watcher that he’d left there. It was possible that Giles hadn’t heard the thing’s approach, although now it had actually arrived
it would be hard to miss. On the other hand, he might well have heard it – and opted for keeping his head down and himself out of sight. Stay low, willya, G-man?
Xander didn’t dare shout the advice, since doing so would attract unwelcome attention – but he prayed his friend would follow it anyway; there were a whole bunch of people who’d never forgive him if he let anything happen to their much beloved friend and mentor.
There was no more time to worry about that. The demon slithered into the square, its bulbous head questing round in search of prey, a disturbing parody of a big dog sniffng the air. Xander threw Nuala a nod, and she began to bounce up and down in the branches, making the entire tree creak and flail. She whooped too; a loud and defiant challenge that brought the creature’s head whipping round with disconcerting speed. Tarzan seized the opportunity to loose a well aimed arrow; it hit scaled flesh and bounced off without effect.
“Damn,” Xander cursed, stepping out from the bare shelter of a ruined hut to pump six rapid shots at the monstrous thing; one winged a flailing arm, three ricocheted away - forcing Tarzan to drop and roll, his arrows spilling out across the bloodied sand – one went altogether wild, and the last managed to bury itself into gnashing gums, making the thing rear up in a moment of pain.
Only a moment; Xander dived hastily for cover as the demon surged towards the thunder of the bullets. Firepower wasn’t the answer – while he might have made a more effective dent with a heavy millimetre automatic, it was pretty obvious that nothing short of a SAM missile was going to actually stop
the thing. Especially as the wounds he had
inflicted were clearly closing up only seconds after they’d been made.
Nuala whooped again, crashing the tree branches together and turning the demon back in her direction. Xander – whose hasty dive had landed him in some decidedly unpleasant remnants of the creature’s earlier rampage – bounced back to his feet and shared a very worried glance with the loincloth clad figure on the other side of the square. The thing was fast
. Fast – and flexible, its head twisting past the length of its body and the tail whipping round with an audible snap
as it lunged towards the source of the sound. There was barely time to shout a warning: the bulbous head slammed into the trunk of the tree with furious force and the scything teeth snapped at Nuala’s feet as she scrambled up into the higher branches with desperate haste.
Xander risked a glance down the hill, seeing Ryoko running back towards them with her arms encumbered. “HeyheyeheyeheyHEY!!!” he yelled, stamping his feet with panicked determination. The whole tree was starting to shake – and if Nuala slipped, she was going to be little more than shredded meat within seconds.
The demon spun round again, its lower arms digging up dirt as it powered back across the square. Xander dodged and dived a second time, feeling a sudden flare of pain as a flailing tentacle struck his right calf. His – and the creature’s – momentum carried the two of them apart, turning what might have been a fatal grasp into a muscle numbing contact, and his semi-athletic dive into a decidedly undignified flop. He hit the ground hard, and lay there for a vital second or two, the breath driven from his body and stars dancing in front of his one good eye.
Stars – and teeth. The demon had twisted round in pursuit and its head was questing back and forth barely a foot over where Xander lay, probably trying to distinguish his body heat from the sunbaked surface beneath him. Xander froze in sudden terror as drool spattered down from layered gums. There were at least six rings of teeth in the creature’s mouth, all of them gnashing and flexing like an obscene cusiniart. A whole slew of swear words collided inside his head, and he barely bit back his instinctive exclamation. Any second now …
A fierce ululation cut through the air; Tarzan’s defiant battle cry jerked the hellish meat grinder upwards and the creature spun away with another of those disconcerting twists. Xander was left blinking into the sun, gulping for breath and fighting to calm the thundering panic of his heart.
,” he hissed through gritted teeth – and rolled back to his feet as best he could, favouring his throbbing leg and wondering where the hell his gun had gone …
Nuala was shaking the tree again, a furious distraction that turned the demon away from the apeman and back towards her – and giving Ryoko the perfect angle from which to throw a makeshift lasso. A circle of rope dropped over the creature’s head and past at least three tentacled ‘arms;’ its forward lunge was pulled to a jerking halt and its whole body skidded backwards for a couple of feet as Ryoko dug her feet into the dirt and hauled with all her Slayer might. Xander half opened his mouth to cheer – and then turned it into a yell of alarm instead.
He’d seen the thing turn in its own length, seen it turn and twist with frightening speed. Now
it simply arched back into a loop, following the tension of its sudden restraint. Belly became back; Ryoko – pulling to keep it from Nuala – suddenly found she was pulling potential death straight towards herself.
” Xander yelled, and she did, diving sideways and barely avoiding getting tangled up in the rope. The demon bit dirt – literally – and came up spitting blood caked soil, its head twisting back and forward in an angry search for prey. Its tails lashed – forcing Ryoko to roll and squirm away in haste. The teeth filled maw swung in Xander’s direction and Nuala shook the tree again, drawing it back towards her.This is crazy
, Xander realised. They weren’t hurting it, and it didn’t seem to be tiring. All they seemed to be doing was making it angry – and wearing themselves out. There had to be a better way …Or maybe not
, he winced, as the bulbous head slammed into the tree with furious force. The trunk protested with a pained creak and an ominous crack that echoed across the veldt. Roots ripped out of dry soil and the tenacious, ancient, baobab toppled over with the full weight of its years. Nuala went with it, tangled in the branches and unable to do anything except hold on – and probably pray, just as Xander was busy doing.
The demon reared up among the exposed roots, arms flailing and its head swinging back and forth as it sought the now imprisoned Slayer. Xander opened his mouth to yell again, ready and willing to sacrifice himself for Nuala’s safety – just as a lithe, tanned figure leapt across the square and ran straight up the creatures back.
Metal links swung out, wrapping the demon’s throat with a choking collar of heavy steel. Ryoko had obviously done as she’d been told and brought the tow chain along with the rope – and Tarzan was using it as a heavy duty garrotte, his naked feet digging deep into demons’ flesh to give him purchase and his muscled arms bulging as he fought to strangle the beast into submission.
Xander’s mouth dropped open. He’d seen John Clayton subdue lions, wrestle crocodiles, and even shoulder slam a charging rhino – but this
was the Lord of the Jungle displayed in all his primal glory, a creature of animal force and terrifying majesty. Muscles rippled along his arms and legs as he rode the bucking beast, anchored by nothing more than the curl of his toes and his determined grip on the chain. A low, savage growl – something between a leopard’s yowl and a gorilla’s roar – keened from his throat. His hair, freed from its usual restraint, whipped around him with feral abandon – and in the brief glimpse that Xander caught of his eyes, there was a gleam of wildness, a savage joy in the challenge of the conflict.
The demon spun and squirmed, trying to slip the chain and dislodge the weight that was clinging so stubbornly to its back. Tarzan held on, slowly and determinedly tightening the chain. Blood began to ooze from beneath its bite, the metal links sinking into unnatural flesh. The creature reared and shook, its struggles becoming more and more desperate. Ryoko was leaping up and down at the edge of the square, cheering and yelling encouragement. Xander was beginning to grin, seeing the chain sink deeper, expecting the end to come at any moment …
… and then the chain broke, and the demon shook itself like a wet dog, throwing metal links in every direction. Tarzan was dislodged, one hand clinging to the end of the chain for a moment before he was thrown free, his body arching back to land with a sickening thud somewhere among the ruins of a hut. Oh my God …
The demon howled with anger and pain, shaking the last of the metal from its skin, whirling and twirling in place as if seeking its tormentor within its own coils. Then it stopped, pausing in place to slowly lift its eyeless head and regain its bearings. Xander’s heart sank. The damage wrought by the chain was healing over even as he watched, wounds closing and flesh smoothing out as if it had never been broken. Had Tarzan succeeded in removing the thing’s ugly head from its non-existent shoulders, they’d have had every chance of beating it. There’d have been time – while it was busy twitching and growing a new mouth – to load its body with the thermite and dispatch it to kingdom come.
Now the only time he had was time to pray, and hope that dying didn’t hurt too much. If he moved, he’d draw its attention. If he didn’t, it would track him down from his body heat. And he wasn’t
a Slayer or a mythical apeman.
He was just a frightened Watcher-wannabe, staring death in the face …
A startling rattle turned both his head and of the demon. It was the sound of nutshells and stones clattering inside a gourd – a gourd inset into the top of an ornate staff. The end of the staff thumped down against the ground, and when it did, the ground shuddered. So did Xander.
Because the person holding
the staff was a tall Englishman in khaki safari gear – and he was standing in front of what remained of the Tagati’s hut, right out in the open, making no effort to conceal himself. No effort to be quiet, either; he thumped the staff down a second time, sending another of those shivering shocks through the ground. The stones in the gourd rattled and danced, the sound echoing around the village and seeming to come from nowhere and everywhere, all at once …Oh God
, Xander realised, forcing himself to stand stock still and not
go charging across to sweep his mentor to suspect safety. He’s trying to control it!
The Tagati had tried that.
The Tagati that was now lying in pieces across the floor of his demolished hut …He can do this, he can do this, he can do this …
It was a frantic thought, a desperate, terrified prayer. Xander fought to remind himself that this
was the man who’d teleported across the Atlantic to face down Willow in her grief and anger. Who’d hunted bringers across the world, snatching potentials from imminent death with little more to fuel him than moments of sleep snatched on desperate flights and a regular intake of British Airways tea. Who’d faced down vampires and demons and bringers and even a rogue Slayer or two in his time. Who was standing unarmed in front of a practically indestructible demon that delighted in tearing its prey into bloody, unrecognisable chunks …
The gourd shook, the staff thumped down – and the ground rumbled again, deeper and more insistently this time. The demon had turned and reared up, but not charged; it was swaying and shivering, clearly disorientated by the sounds and the vibrations. Its teeth gnashed and slavered and its head darted this way and that, seeking the cause of its distress. Giles – much to Xander’s horror – took a step closer, lifting his left hand and holding it out, as if he could command the thing by sheer force of will. Maybe he thought he could
– but if his concentration slipped, even for a moment, then the creature was close enough to simply dip down and chew his head off.Not
an image Xander wanted to contemplate, right there and then. He didn’t want to watch - but he couldn’t tear his eyes away either.
There were words – guttural, unintelligible phrases, half muttered under the Watcher’s breath – and then a gesture, a sideways sweep of the hand that the demon’s head echoed almost as if it could see and follow the motion. Something soft and shimmering started to mist out from Giles’ extended fingers; it wasn’t smoke, but it drifted rather than sprayed, spreading out to touch the demon in a myriad of places. The creature froze for a moment, then swayed back, muscles rippling down its length as it gathered itself to strike. Xander swallowed against a very
dry throat …
… and a river of darkness poured
out of the Tagati’s hut – a river made up of thousands of scurrying legs and tiny fuzzy bodies. They flowed down the shallow hill into the square, around Giles’ feet – and up his legs and over his shoulders, out along his outstretched arm, and on, across the filmy filaments he’d spun to snare and mark the demon. An endless stream of scampering, scuttling movement engulfed him; Xander took an involuntary step back in horror, and then another, as the river rushed onward, swarming across the demon’s hide and sheathing it in a writhing, shifting coat of hairy legs and fat bodies and hungry, piercing mouths.
The demon was overwhelmed in seconds
. It screamed, and it shuddered, tentacles flailing wildly and its whole body writhing in a desperate attempt to shake off the implacable invasion. Some of the swarm were thrown free – some
landed on Xander who held his breath and restrained the impulse to shudder as they scuttled down his clothes to be reabsorbed in the swirl of their attack. They were spiders. Big, fat, hairy spiders, the sort you always saw in old horror movies creeping through cobwebbed lairs and out of the eye sockets of skeletons.
They weren’t creeping
now. They were moving with lightning speed, and moving together
- their sheer numbers turning them into a fluid, shifting entity that first encased, then overwhelmed the enemy, swallowing it whole. Beneath their black cloak, the demon was struggling, its effort growing weaker and weaker with every passing second. The length of it slumped down, melting into a heaving mound that rippled and shifted and slowly sank into stillness.
The river of darkness pooled out into a lake – one that filled the square and lapped at the ruined walls on every side, squirming and moving with restless motion.. A silver mist rose from its surface – and then the spiders started to rise with it, caught up and carried away on fine filaments of silk that caught the light and glinted in the brilliance of the day. For a long moment Xander could see nothing but silk and spider smoke as the swarm rose up – forming, for a heart stopping second or two, a huge
spider like shape, stepping up towards the sky. A sense of presence swirled over him – the impression of amused judgement, and a playful mussing at his hair – and then that too was gone, leaving him breathless and shaken in the African sun.
Xander blinked. The strange, spidery shape was rapidly dissipating into shreds of black smoke, leaving no more than a vague impression of something vast and menacing being blown away by the wind. There was no sign of the demon man-snake-thing. At all.
On the far side of the village square, Tarzan was slowly picking himself up from where the creature had thrown him. He was nursing his left arm, which looked as if it might be broken. Nuala was disentangling herself from the uprooted tree with equal care; her sister Slayer was determinedly breaking branches to help her in her escape.
And in the middle
of the square, Giles was standing the way he might have stood at a Sunnydale faculty meeting, the Tagati’s staff dangling from one hand, his other tucked into a handy pocket, and his mind obviously elsewhere. He was, Xander realised after a second or two, frowning at the whispers of spiders and silk as they dissipated into the sun bleached air.
“Giles?” Xander gave himself a shake and strode across to examine his mentor with anxious eyes. The demon had torn through an entire village, tossed Slayers aside like paper dolls and shaken Tarzan off its neck with barely a pause. He’d expected it to rip Ripper in two. Yet – even after that whole river of spiders
deal there wasn’t a mark on the Watcher. His clothes weren’t even mussed.
Although there was a spider still perched on his shoulder and several others that scuttled down and away as Xander approached.
“Ah, Xander.” He was greeted with a weary smile. “Are you alright?”
alright? Giles – we’ve two Slayers knocked out of the field and Tarzan reporting to the injury list! Why the hell aren’t you dead? What were you thinking of? Getting in its way like that? And … what the hell
was that …that - spider thing?”
“Hmm?” Giles had been briefly diverted by the information about the Slayers; he turned from checking that the two girls were on their feet, and met Xander’s bemused eye with a distracted smile. “Oh, that
. That was Anansi … or, rather .. a manifestation of Anansi’s power. He … umm …” His hand waved vaguely towards the Tagati’s hut. “Hadn’t been properly dismissed. Was quite glad to help, actually.”Glad to help?
Xander blinked, recalling the terror of the creature’s attack, and the spiders pouring out of the ground like water, engulfing man and demon together. The presence of power in those last moment, laughing at him. Amused
. The demon consumed as if it had never been there …
“Giles,” he assayed slowly, staring at him. “Are you saying … you called on a god
? And he … answered
Giles gave him one of those slightly pained and determinedly long suffering looks that he’d mastered during long years of living on a Hellmouth and Watching a headstrong Slayer. “Xander,” he said patiently, distractedly persuading a lingering spider to scuttle off his arm and down the length of the staff, “you know perfectly well that in situations like this, we do what we must, and we use what we know. Just as Tarzan did, with that quite remarkable attempt to subdue the creature. I wonder if we could get him to train Slayers some of his tricks … Of course,” he continued thoughtfully, “when it comes to deities, I’d have imagined Anansi to be more … Ethan’s cup of tea on the whole, but – apparently not. We bargained, came to an agreement, and I let him out. Or in
, perhaps … I suspect he got the better end of the deal, but - well,” Giles smiled, “he is
a trickster spirit. Not a malicious one, though. Loves stories. I promised him a few.”
Xander went on staring for a moment – staring in wide eyed wonder at a man who was willing to risk, not just his life, but his soul
, to save people he cared about - and then he broke into a broad grin. “G,” he said, shaking his head with amused amazement, “only you
could come all the way to Africa, go hunting with Tarzan, travel deep into the veldt – and end up bargaining with a god that likes books.
Most people come to this continent for the lions, you know?”
“I,” Giles said archly, “am not most people
. Tarzan may admirable abilities when it comes to hunting lions, taming elephants and wrestling gorillas, but there are other skills that are needed in our line of work. He may have spent his formative years learning to be Lord of the Jungle – but kindly remember that I spent mine
Author’s note: it was this particular incident that resulted in Tarzan respectfully referring to Rupert Giles as ‘Koyato’ – a name that Korak, Tarzan’s son, used with equal respect when they met again in Rome, totally confusing Buffy and giving Xander cause to laugh out loud. The full descriptive phrase is: Akut-zanmangani ko-yato tand-bundo – which translates as ‘shaman, mighty watcher, saviour.’ Or literally ‘wise man, mighty see, not-dead maker.’
‘Yato’ (see) is the closest Mangani word for Watcher – and Kal-tan-bund-olo (female-warrior-dead-wrestle) is the term Tarzan uses to describe a Slayer when talking to his apes. The Mangani have no word for demon – but they do know about Zanzi, the spider and his love for zu-gogo (stories.)