parts 72 to 74
Justin Kimball left Sunnydale on a plane that afternoon. Granted, Sunnydale was small enough that their airport had limits on how many aircraft it could hold at once and just how far those aircraft could go, but he was able to board a plane that took him to St. Louis, where he transferred to another plane. His second plane did not take him towards London, England as many would expect. Instead, it took him to Tampico, one of Mexico’s larger cities, located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
Should anyone from the Council of Watchers ask, he would cite difficulties in booking direct flights, nations that refused to allow British citizens the right to travel through or over their territories due to petty political rivalries, and a final mumble about budget and luggage restrictions. All of those were valid complaints. None of them were the truth.
His father, Albert Kimble, had been a Watcher, like his father Henry Kimble before him. Albert Kimble had been sent to observe and train a Potential in Mexico, a place that few senior Watchers desired to go, claiming health concerns and a lack of proper resources, as well as political instability. Rosa had never been called as a Slayer, but she had wound up introducing her Watcher to her family, and their own traditions.
Albert Kimble had ended up marrying one of Rosa’s cousins. Mari had been able to trace her ancestry, through some of the branches, to a line of Mayan shamans. Her family was still quite active in the magical communities of Mexico, though Justin had spent so much of his youth in England with some of his father’s family that he didn’t know as much as he’d like about his mother’s side.
He knew enough to know that they had extensive contacts through the magical communities and the Mayan communities, including people of mixed heritage. He knew enough to know that some of them had real magical power. Enough to know that they qualified as someone to pass this information to in hopes of averting the destruction of everything they knew.
He’d also pass on the fact that Travers broke Council Oaths on to the Mexican Watchers, scattered though they were. He didn’t know how much good it would do, but keeping such appalling behavior secret would not benefit anyone with a conscience or honor. It might also help gather people willing to help oppose the Dark Devourer… which he suspected might make appearances in the ancient Mayan legends.
Justin also suspected that after not becoming a Slayer, Rosa had found other uses for training in weapons and fighting styles. He had no proof, and honestly, neither his father or himself had ever looked for proof of the woman he’d always called Aunt Rosa doing anything illegal. Despite that, he’d bet that she knew people of what might be termed legally and ethically questionable employment, if she wasn’t such an individual herself. The official legal authorities were far too cautious about someone that should have been an unremarkable woman of moderate means for her to lack connections.
At the very least, between his mother’s family and Rosa’s connections, the word and ritual would spread further and faster than what he could accomplish alone. And if Rosa had the sort of connections he suspected, Travers might be facing whatever eternal judgment awaited sooner rather than later.
His plans were to stay a day and visit and say his possible last goodbyes before catching a plane to Sao Paolo in Brazil. Sao Paolo would allow him to scan and electronically distribute the ritual far better than the resources available to him in Tampico. At least, since he didn’t want some of his contacts to learn of some of his other contacts… He liked most of his family in Tampico, but his only options for a computer might not include a document scanner, and certainly wouldn’t include a computer that wouldn’t be viewed afterwards by interested parties. He wasn’t certain how discrete or trustworthy some of those parties might be, and would rather be safe than sorry.
Besides, email would let him send the ritual to people in multiple countries at once. Watchers no longer had to carry documents by hand to other nations to spread important information. Technology was created for a reason, why not use it?
End part 72.
“Willow?” Angel moved towards the young woman. He could still remember how she’d been when he’d first seen her, so very young, and shy, and new to the very idea that creatures out of legend and nightmares were real. It astonished him how much she’d changed in just a few years, even as it shamed him how much he and his demon had been involved.
Willow made a small noise as she traced a diagram on one of the pages. She’d moved from the main sitting room to another room that had been used as something not quite an office and not quite a library. At some point, she’d brought several books into the room, and two of them were opened. Willow glanced from her copied pages to the books and back again.
“Does it make sense to you? I’m afraid the magical theory is more complex than I can follow,” Angel admitted.
“Mostly,” Willow’s voice was very soft. “I’m trying to find a way to add some safety precautions.”
Angel blinked, walking closer. “What do you mean?”
“Lots of spells have things in to minimize the chance that the person casting them will die, or be crippled, or even seriously hurt. Exhaustion’s normally within the tolerances, and so are headaches – which I haven’t always been happy with, I might add. But this one… there’s nothing to keep you from doing really bad things to yourself. Maybe even dying. If you’re not really aware of your magical capacity and flow, or get really distracted while casting, you could die. You might not even realize it until it’s too late,” Willow shook her head. “That scares me, Angel.”
“You’ve done plenty of powerful magics, Willow. Why are you so worried?” Angel settled into the other chair.
“I’ve done exactly two major spells without inherent safety limitations. The second was the time-bubble we used to rescue Faith. It was hard, but Whistler anchored us. That’s someone adding a safety net, so to speak. The other one…” Willow paused, and her gaze unfocused. In a much quieter voice, she continued, “The first one was restoring your soul. I was either really out cold, or maybe in a coma. Which means I could have died. I didn’t even notice.”
Angel blinked, not having realized that the soul restoration ritual had been so dangerous for Willow. She was right about what the deep unconsciousness meant for a spell-caster. “I guess that explains the worry.”
“I don’t want to die. I don’t want to wind up crippled.” Willow paused and took a slow breath. “And I can’t find a way to make either option less likely than just doing the ritual and hoping.”
“Sounds imprecise,” Angel observed.
Willow nodded, “And I don’t like that much imprecision in... anything, really.”
“Ahh,” Angel understood a bit better now. It wasn’t just the perfectly normal dislike of the idea of potential death or maiming. It wasn’t just a healthy fear of the destruction of everything she knew. Willow had control and planning issues, and she’d run into a situation where not only did they not have much if any control, she couldn’t make a complete and detailed plan.
“No helpful advice?” She tried to smile.
“Make sure you’ve had plenty of rest before casting, if possible have a good meal beforehand.” Angel paused, trying to sort through his limited magical knowledge. “Sorry, I’m not much of a magical expert.”
“I… Angelus dabbled. Just enough to get an idea when to run, or a few useful tricks. Dru was the one who picked up most of that, and…” Angel let his words trail away.
“I’m being silly. Worrying about us living, when I should be focused more on making sure the everything isn’t eaten,” Willow sighed again. “The survival of the world takes a priority over our survival, especially since if we can’t fix the barriers, we’re toast anyhow.”
Angel moved closer, his hands moving to try to rub some of the tension from her shoulders. “We’re all worried. You’re not facing this alone.”
Willow leaned into his hands, but Angel could tell that she was still afraid, still worried. He couldn’t blame her for that at all.
End part 73.
Thanks to the wonders of email, communication across oceans and continents had become almost instantaneous. Oh, there might be some lag, rarely more than a few hours, if the communication lines were busy, or due to technical issues. But news from the Pacific coast of America could be waiting to be read by someone in England in minutes, not the months that it would have taken in centuries past.
Someone was always awake and monitoring communications in the headquarters of the Council of Watchers. How else could they be prepared to defend humanity and the world from demonic threats unless they could be informed immediately? How else could vital information about prophecies, potential end of the world events, and the changing of the Slayers be acted upon in a suitably timely manner?
When these things combined with the very human love of gossip and enjoyment in the suffering of irritating, pompous fools… It took very little time before every Watcher in London knew of the threat of the Dark Devourer, and within days all but the most isolated Watchers in the world knew. The discovery that actions taken and oaths broken by their very own Head, Quentin Travers, had made things worse? That moved with a speed that almost convinced people that Watchers had discovered telepathy.
So it was no surprise that one group of determined and terrified Watchers sought the Archives for answers, or at least places to start looking. The angry mob of younger Watchers seeking to beat Travers to a pulp before drawing and quartering said pulp was also no surprise.
To the frustration of that angry group of Watchers seeking to slake their rage in the brutal death of Travers, one does not rise to leading one of the world’s largest secret organizations without knowing the importance of information. Including the oh-so-important information of when your subordinates seek to change the hierarchy with a few violent deaths, or an escape route or five.
When the furious young Watchers reached the office, Travers was long gone. He didn’t retreat to the Travers family home, with lovely grounds and fortified by generations of magically aware Watchers. Other Watchers would know just how to bypass or disable those protections.
Instead, he chartered a small plane to take him to France. Leaning back in his chair, he smiled, pleased in his escape. A nice nap during the flight should help him to be in a much better mood when the plane landed…
Lindsey MacDonald checked his email and smiled when he saw the email from Cordelia Chase. Maybe the attractive and witty woman had decided to have one last desperate fling before they were all devoured by an ancient and unspeakable horror – which he’d be eager to offer. Or perhaps those do-good optimistic hero types that she worked with had found a way to delay their horrible demise, say to a time well after he was dead. The subject line - last ditch effort – suggested a possible solution.
Scanning the email, he noticed that it was rather scant on details. Some of her associates had found not just scattered clues but an actual ritual that they thought would rebuild the barriers. She’d been instructed to pass it on to everybody, so she’d sent it to him to forward through the rest of his company, assuming they didn’t want to be devoured either.
Out of habit and sensible paranoia, Lindsey ran a virus-scan program before he opened the attachment. Only when it was pronounced safe did he open it, even if he did strongly doubt that anyone with Angel’s detective agency had the skills to send a dangerous computer virus to their system anyhow.
Looking at the described ritual, Lindsey quickly decided that it was substantially beyond his comprehension. Oh, he could follow the ‘stand here, chant this, burn this stuff at these places’ part, but the sections about why? He was a lawyer, not an expert in magical theory.
He forwarded the ritual to the Wolfram & Hart magical department with the subject line ‘Priority: Barriers against the Devourer’ and the explanation that this had been forwarded to him as a solution, but his magical theory was lacking. He’d requested a rapid evaluation followed by sending it to everybody if it was legitimate.
He hoped her friends had found something that would help. Hoped that it was legitimate. Hoped it would be cleared and sent on in time. Hoped it would work.
End part 74.