Roberta limped though the sewers underneath the warehouse district. She was bleeding from more places then she could count. She had been too close to the car when its tank had exploded and although she had managed to escape she still caught enough of the blast that she was hurting badly and dazed. She had not felt anything strike her head but the signs all pointed to a concussion. That she was still able to move was tribute to her incredible constitution and the Devil's Root she had consumed earlier.
The blonde was obviously also a Slayer and no doubt was the very same Buffy Harris was ever so attached to. Roberta had little doubt that as long as Summers was around her ability to get to the Marines and the Slayers they were sheltering would be severely limited.
Roberta suddenly heard music, Familiar in style of not in fact. She wandered forward stumbling occasionally over the sprained ankle that was slowing her progress by forcing her to limp. Roberta noticed her eyes, already adjusted to the dark were picking up faint light coming from ahead. She moved forward and stepped through a circular archway. She was in a beautiful cathedral like the ones she'd often visit as a child.
She walked though the structure. Soft music was echoing off the walls. At the front a stand was covered in hundreds of burning candles. She stopped and looked watching the flickering candles as they burned.
"They burn for the lost and damned." a cloaked figure said. Roberta was sure that the figure had not been there a moment earlier. Yet now the cloaked soul sat in a pew.
"The lost... Who is it that has been lost?" Roberta asked,
"Your victims. The many that fell to the fearsome Bloodhound, Each candle burns in memory of someone whose death you are responsible for."
Roberta gasped and fell to her knees. "Madonna forgive me I had forgotten there was so many."
"...And yet for all the candles that burn here there is one that does not burn. Can you guess Hunting-Dog? Can you tell which of them would be for your Master?"
Roberta drew close to the candle stand and saw that yes there were many, many candles burning and yet more empty spaces where a candle had yet to be lit she reached out and took hold of a taper and tried to light a candle in memory of her master but each time she tried the flame would wink out.
"Roberta you will not be able to light that candle for Me." came the familiar voice of Diego Lovelace. He sat in the front pew. He was dressed in the same suit he had been wearing on the day he had died. Even though it was a few weeks ago to Roberta's battle weary mind it seemed like another lifetime ago; maybe it was another lifetime a better lifetime then the one she deserved. "Master Lovelace, surely I will be allowed to pray for your soul’s safe journey to Madonna."
Diego laughed, "You can pray as much as you like but that candle and its neighbors will only light for the lives you have taken and will take. Since you are not to blame for my death there is no candle for me there and never will be."
"...But Master Diego I failed you. I should have seen what was coming what danger was in the air I should have seen the truth."
"You did see Roberta --you did see. When I think of all the times I have tried to get you to see the world through brighter and happier eyes then you do there is a kind of irony to the fact that to be truly useful, I will have to show you something that only the Bloodhound could have seen."
The old man reached out for Roberta's hand. Then Diego nodded toward the cloaked figure. Suddenly the walls of the church fell away.
It was the plaza again; just like that hot day when Lovelace had died. Roberta could see another version of herself and Lovelace disembarking from the car that had bone them to the gathering. Roberta could see her twin’s soldier's eyes scanning the crowd as they had the day of the event.
"I should have seen it coming; I sensed something I am sure of it."
"You did sense something though and now I'm going to show you exactly what you sensed."
The old man threw out his pointing finger and Roberta saw off in the distance frozen in place the face of the Manuela. The young Slayer was looking toward the Other-Roberta and Other-Lovelace climbing from the car. The Maid looked at her again seeing her now as she had not seen her the day of the event.
"Her eyes Roberta look at her eyes."
"She has the eyes of death; I've seen this before in people I have served beside. They care nothing for anything accept killing."
"...Or being killed."
"Her eyes, she recognizes me; not just as a target. She has seen me before. How could I forget someone like this? Someone with eyes like this."
"For her you have thus far existed only in the smoke and fog of dreams."
"Can such a thing truly be?"'
"She is not like You Roberta. She is a Slayer, their legacy of the death was thrust upon her and while all who share that legacy are in some ways connected the connection for some is stronger."
"You heard the boy speak of this on the day that you first saw them." The Cloaked figure reminded her.
"So she did know something was going to happen. She saw your death before it happened and did nothing to prevent it."
"She knew I was going to die, this is true, but so did you Roberta. My death was set the moment I underestimated those against me or their desperation for the misery they traffic in."
"What do you mean?"
The Cloak held up a bottle of tequila. Roberta looked closer at it and saw something familiar in the bottom of the bottle. Smaller by far than those she had been consuming. It was still identifiable as Devil's Root. "Look familiar? Not just the plant Hunting Dog; but the bottle as well?"
In a pew in the corner of the Church, Roberta saw poor father comforting a small and sickly child. The Child was wailing until the child's poor father quieted her by giving her a tablespoon of this same tequila. Soon the child stopped crying. She had not seen her Father in so long she almost did not recognize this young man.
"He said the drink would make me feel better and that I was never to tell anyone how it happened. But after that day I felt stronger and as the years passed he would occasionally let me drink small amounts. Never too much he despised drunkenness. Each time I felt stronger and more powerful. After the bottle was gone and I could not find another that made me feel as that one had I presumed it to be the fantasies of a child and forgot about it."
"The harvest of Devil's Root has become greater in recent years. The Three who rule as one have gained much profit from that harvest of tears."
"This was why you died this thing...but why"
"You have seen its powers Roberta. Now see what else it can do."
The Cloaked man gestured toward a burning candle and Roberta saw within the flame Xander clutching his belly and dying.
"The boy he did lose to Alberto's man."
"Indeed and had he not been carrying one of the roots on his person he would be dead now. Instead he was pulled back from the brink of death."
"It has power enough to stop death, what would some pay for that kind of power. What control might the Cartels possess if they could gain control of such power? I naively assumed that I had to worry about was the drug lords and their cocaine fields it was the root Roberta that was what they were worried about drugs come and go but it takes a certain kind of misery to make ripe and fat Devils Root misery that would have disappeared had I succeeded in empowering the farmers and freeing them of the threats and intimidation of the Cartels and the FARC."
"Then the Marines..."
"... They were only puppets in service to the Three Who Rule as One; though they did not know it at the time."
“What about the Slayer."
"She is a slave Roberta though now the master she serves is Destiny and he is leading her down a pathway of blood and violence. You are on the pathway with her and if you will not serve her agenda then she will cut you down and find another that will."
"The Woman, Buffy, Xander's Friend."
"Unless you can make her see the truth she will find herself the victim of the Slayer’s Agenda just as you were."
But how can I defeat her or the rest of them they are the Slayers and this Buffy, if Xander is to be believed she is the best trained of all of them."
"The Slayer is strong and she is fast but in the end, the only limit on how strong or fast a human can be is the human in question. Their desires, their determination, so Hunting Dog how strong do you really wish to be?"
The Cloak passed her the bottle of Tequila. Roberta cracked the top off it and drank half the contents. Mixed in with the burning of the alcohol was a far deeper burning. She upended the bottle over top of herself and felt the stinging of booze flowing over her wounds knitting them closed. When the bottle was empty she pulled the small devils root from the bottle and chewed on it feeling the combination of tequila and devils root flowing into her adding hot fire to her muscles and joints. She began to laugh maniacally
"Yes master," She laughed, "I will find them and tear them up; tear them all up. I swear Master." She looked around and saw herself alone and the cathedral gone. She no longer wondered if it had ever been there. Instead she was in a dank cubbyhole at a t-junction in the sewers. She looked at the now empty bottle of tequila and crushed it in her fist grinding the broken glass into her palm. Fascinated she watched as the cuts in her bleeding flesh healed almost instantaneously.
"Nothing will stop me," Roberta vowed, "I'll make them regret their mothers ever shit them out into this world. I'll tear them up; angels, demons, Slayers, I'll tear them all up." She repeated with a grim smile.