“Buffy!” Kendra said excitedly, then calmed down. “It is . . . good to see you.”
Buffy showed no such restraint, and went and hugged the other Slayer. After a second, Kendra hugged her back. A grin on his face, Forrest waited until the two women had unclenched and extended his hand. A bit tentatively, Kendra took it. “Name’s Forrest. Thanks for the help . . .”
“Kendra,” she said. “The vampire Slayer. And you were doing very well yourself – for someone without powers.”
Forrest gave Buffy a look. “She’s a Slayer? The one before you?”
“The story is long and complicated,” Kendra said. “And not worth going into now when there are vampires to kill. Buffy. Did you die?”
“No.” Buffy was used to Kendra’s bluntness – had been used to it, rather. “Still going strong after four years on the job.”
Kendra nodded. “I am not surprised.” At that, despite the circumstances, Buffy grinned. “What is the situation?” Right then, back to business.
“Everyone in town but Buffy here’s been dead less than five years, but they’ve all been dead. Near as we can tell every living human being except her was tossed out a couple of hours back.”
Buffy said, “I think some major power. Calls herself Glory; powerful enough to kick my ass without breaking a sweat and do some kind of ritual at the same time. She’s looking for something called the Key. She’s the only one I can think of who’d benefit from every human being out of town, because the Key isn’t human.”
“Understood.” Kendra nodded. “So how do we kill her?”
“We don’t,” Buffy said. “She’s too strong right now and I have no idea how to hurt her.”
“You running from a battle?” Forrest asked. He seemed surprised, not like he was trying to start a fight.
“No,” Buffy said thoughtfully. “Just picking the right battlefield. And right now I know she’s going to fail if she’s looking for the Key.” She paused. “Right now, what I want to do is survive the night. And, I guess, help some of the rest of these people do that too.”
They looked around them. There were maybe a dozen or so people in the vicinity – and Buffy could tell they were just human beings. “Come on, folks,” Buffy said. “We’re not going to hurt you.” Slowly they all moved forward. They all looked ragged, but they seemed unhurt. “Okay people, you’re coming with us.” Everyone walked out of the cemetery and down the street. No one attacked.
“What’s your idea?” Kendra asked.
“The vampires – both the residents and the special-back-for-one-night-only kind – are going to be looking to do some damage, I’m betting. At least most of them, the ones without brains. And these people deserve their one night back just like you do.”
“Safety in numbers,” Forrest said. “But what if the hostiles think the same way?”
“That’s why we’re here, in case they do.” She looked around. “Anyone else out there?” No one came. “Okay then, let’s move on. Kendra, could you bring up the rear?”
“This is a hell of a way to stay in the shadows,” Forrest said. “Not that I think it’s a bad idea – but aren’t you supposed to try to lay low?” They came to a halt under the streetlight.
Buffy sighed. “Yeah. But I don’t think I could live with myself if I just let the vampires and demons have Sunnydale as an all-you-can-eat buffet, no matter how dangerous it is, and no matter that my friends – my LIVING friends,” she amended, looking at Kendra, “are safe as possible trapped outside the city. But despite these lil’ ol’ Slayer skills I’m not Supergirl. Sure, I’m faster than a speeding skateboard, more powerful than a loco vampire and able to leap tall mausoleums in a single bound, but I’m not THAT good. That’s why to keep these people safe we have to find them and keep them together. You two with me?”
Kendra said, “Of course.”
Forrest nodded. “Me too. By myself I’d’ve just gone around killing hostiles anyway.”
“Good,” Buffy said. “Keep an eye out for anyone else who might be able to help – or anyone we need to help.”
A voice behind them said, “Whatever it is, count me in.” Buffy turned and saw Larry standing there, holding a shotgun and leading three other people.
“You got it.” Buffy didn’t recognize any of Larry’s group besides him. “I see you had the same idea I did.”
“Pretty much,” he said. “Except I’m not superhuman and I can’t do magic, so -- we’ve already lost two. A shotgun’ll scramble a vampire up but it doesn’t kill ‘em.”
Damn. “Well, now you’re with a group of people who ARE superhuman. So join the club.”
“How many shells you have for the shotgun?” Forrest asked.
“A couple dozen.”
“What kind of shot are you?”
“I can hit nine of ten clay pigeons.”
Forrest nodded. “You know how to use it, then. Good. Welcome to the group. Name’s Forrest.” He extended a hand. “Miss quiet over there’s Kendra.” Kendra said hello.
“She’s like me,” Buffy said. “Don’t ask for the story.”
“I wasn’t going to.”
“So is there any plan?” Larry asked.
“Walk around, find people, save them, kill vampires and demons.”
“Simple. I like it.” They began walking again, and in the next fifteen minutes or so got another six people, including one former Initiative member.
And then they got their first test as Buffy recognized one of the five vampires walking towards them as Kakistos.
And one of the others as – hold it, this couldn’t be right -- that nerdy vampire from a few years back, the one who'd broken into the tomb for the artifacts, Spike had told her his name later . . .
X X X X X
Glory walked when she had to.
She preferred to be driven (the curse of looking good in four-inch heels).
And though the roads were clogged with hundreds of automobiles and various other vehicles in sundry states of crash, she wanted to be driven.
Which presented Dreg with a bit of a problem, as he was not the world’s best driver, and Glory (the magnificent) not the easiest being in the universe to please (but pleasing her was his sole purpose in life)!
So this made for a nervewracking ride.
To top it off, neither Dreg nor Glory truly had any idea where they were going. The Key was out there – that the cobra servant had been slain returning to Glory when it had been killed by the Slayer proved that – but obviously it was not in a form that was easy to recognize.
Glory would know the Key at close range, but could not home in on it from a distance. So every once in a while her almighty puissant beauty would order the car stopped and would exit to see if she could detect it. There had been no luck in the hour or so they’d been searching, and Glory was getting angry.
“Turn the car around, Dreg.”
“Yes, Glory.” Dreg maneuvered the car around a crashed VW Beetle as smoothly as he could – which is to say he didn’t crash into anything – and headed the other way down the street. “Turn here.” Dreg turned, avoiding an overturned pickup truck, and drove down the road about a mile or so before her Gloriousness commanded, “Stop.”
And so they halted in front of a magic store. Dreg ran around and opened the car door, then sprinted to the front of the building and opened the shop’s front door as well and held it as his life his light walked through.
There was a vampire inside, sitting at the central table and looking through a book. He looked up as Glory and Dreg came in, then frowned. “You guys aren’t vampires.”
“How perceptive,” Glory said sarcastically. “Get out.” Dreg moved forward to enforce Glory’s wishes, but a held hand stopped him.
“You’re a power,” the vampire said. “I ain’t stupid enough to mess with you, but I got business in one of these books.” He pointed to a stack next to the one he was reading. “I’m not going to get in your way.”
“What are you doing?” Her Glory asked.
The vampire shut the book and sighed. “I’m trying to figure a way to last past the night. Noctus Animortus, I’m only back for a night and that’s it. I’d like this unlife I’ve got to be a bit more permanent.”
Taking a few more steps in, Glory said, “You’ve got more brains than most, vampire. Most of your kind are out killing, slaughtering and maiming. It’s nice to meet someone who has a vision, a goal, something concrete to work towards.”
“I’ve always been a bit of a long-term planner,” the vampire said, chuckling.
Then her magnificence did something Dreg had never seen before. She strode forward and extended her hand. “I’m Glory.”
Standing up, the vampire introduced himself, then bent low and brushed his lips over the top of Glory’s hand. Dreg started to charge forward to punish the vampire for his impertinence, but Glory again held out a hand.
“No, Dreg. He has a goal, he has a plan, and he’s working towards it. I respect that, and I wish I saw it more in myself. You can keep studying. I don’t think you’ll succeed, but I admire your attitude.” Then she turned to Dreg. “Dreg, go search that cabinet over there for some lodestone.” She pointed to the far corner of the shop, then turned and began rooting through the magic powders. The vampire gave a slight bow and returned to his studies.
A few minutes later, Dreg came to the front of the store with three different lodestones. The awesome one was already waiting for him with a bag of powder in her hand. “I, I have three sizes here, oh most mighty Glory,” he said nervously as he knelt to present them. Dreg saw the vampire flash him a look of great amusement.
“The larger, the better,” Glory said, slapping the smaller two from his outstretched palms. Then oh power of powers said, “Is this one the largest one they had?”
“Only these three were there, beloved Glory. This was the largest.”
“Well then, it’ll have to do.” She turned to leave.
As Dreg ran for the door, the vampire called after them, “Good luck in whatever you’re doing.”
“I don’t need luck,” she said. “I need the Key.” The vampire’s eyebrows raised, but he said nothing and returned to leafing through the books of magic.
When they got outside, Glory told Dreg (after he had opened the door of the car for the wondrous one) to find the most wide-open space he could. It took about twenty minutes of driving, but soon they were in a fairly open field, nothing but trees, grass and rocks around for several hundred feet in any direction.
“Now stand back,” she said as she pulled out the bag of powder with one hand and held the lodestone with the other. “The iron in your blood might contaminate the ritual.”
“Oh mighty one,” Dreg said. “If I knew –"
“I’m making a compass,” Glory said, clearly annoyed. “This isn’t as effective as the cobra ritual but it should get the job done.” She sprinkled the powder over the lodestone and mumbled a few words. Both stone and powder disappeared, to be replaced by a faintly glowing arrow in the air a few feet in front of his mistress’ head. It was pointing to the opposite side of Sunnydale. “And somewhere in that direction, Dreg,” Glory said. “We’ll find the Key.”