“That boy is brilliant!” The necromancer said in wonder, as Xander and the group chorused amen.
“How so?” Holland asked, “I mean, I'm not entirely uneducated in spell craft, but I don't see how his spell could possibly work.”
“We have Ted, a sentient machine forged by man, appeal to Vulcan the god of fire and metalworking,” the necromancer explained, “a follower who is the pinnacle of the craft itself should be all but irresistible to Vulcan and by making the entire pentagram out of flame they gave him complete control over how long the spell would last.”
“I can see where that would garner Vulcan's approval, not to mention millions of people being forced to look him up; spreading the word about him not being Leonard Nemoy.”
“Indeed, and the request is for Ted alone, despite the fact that all three could reasonably request it for themselves.”
“So Vulcan's approval is pretty much a lock?” Holland asked.
“Very much so,” The necromancer agreed, “and then they call upon Artemis, a tricky proposition considering that two of the three are male, but and here's where his brilliance shines through again; Vulcan is probably one of the few gods she does not disdain as he, in one aspect or another, is the one who forges her weapons and armor. So since he is so rarely invoked there's no way she'd turn down the rare chance to honor him, and once more we find the request is for not all three of them, but for Dawn alone, the sister of the Slayer.”
“And finally, Xander called upon Aphrodite and offers apologies for past transgressions, praises her wisdom in punishment, and simply asks that she help all three of them live long enough to experience her work again. Aphrodite's followers always flatter the hell out of her when calling on her, but not once does he comment on her looks, instead his comments are on her mind and her works.”
“So, he's three for three?”
“Yes, and the ending prayer ensured it. It was simple and straightforward, which I'm sure Vulcan and Artemis approved of, and it asks simply for their wisdom and guidance. I'm relatively sure that there isn't one physical aspect of Aphrodite which hasn't been complimented ad nauseum, in fact I believe I heard a rap song last week complimenting her brown eye, but he's probably the first to compliment her on her mind and ask for her wisdom in non-love related matters.”
“And how does that help him deal with the book?” Holland asked curiously.
“It doesn't. He seems to have completely forgotten to ask them about it and is simply relying on the empowered circle to confuse the revenants. Of course the gods are great believers in self-reliance, so the fact that he's not asking for their direct help to deal with matters gains him even more brownie points. So, it must be intentional,” The necromancer declared.
“So it’s brilliance and not dumb luck?”
“It might be a combination of the two, come to think of it, because if he was either that lucky or that smart he probably wouldn't be in this situation to begin with.”
With utmost care another link was slowly pulled apart, making a man sized opening in the fence, to ensure not the slightest quiver betrayed the assassin's position.
Over a dozen zombies pushed through the hole in the fence, stumbling over the unseen killer, who was trampled face first into the sand having been too absorbed in his work to notice the silent approach of the mob.
There was a loud crack as a zombie stepped on his neck.
A young boy waited until … THWACK!
… the zombie was knocked down again, before he ducked underneath the saw horse, despite a nearby adult's attempt to grab him.
As the zombie sat back up the boy quickly slammed a 49ers football helmet on its head and ran off.
“In this life few things are certain,” a gray haired older gentleman said, as he strolled through the park.
It’s an idyllic scene with children playing Frisbee and old ladies feeding ducks in the background.
“My taxes keep getting higher and I keep getting older. I can't do anything about those two problems, but what I can do is make sure when I'm laid to rest, I get the rest I deserve.”
A couple of zombies stumble onto the scene behind him and chaos ensues.
“At the Gray Brothers Mortuary, not only is your casket made of the finest materials, but the concrete that seals it shut is too. Use the Gray Brothers Mortuary, because eternal rest should mean just that.”
Ronald turned to John. “Get that kid signed to a contract, I got the 49ers on the line and they're already rushing to get a commercial together to send us.”
“Nope, we've got more viewers than the Super Bowl, and this commercial will be shown on the networks. It'll probably cause a rash of high dollar sports ads too.”
“So why do we need the kid?”
“A little CYA and because the team wants him to be their new mascot.”
“They want a kid to be their mascot?”
“The coach said and I quote, ‘Any kid with balls big enough to pull off a stunt like that has more than earned the right to be our mascot – the kid's got heart.’”
“Can't argue with that,” The station manager agreed before falling silent for a minute. “This is real, isn't it?”
“It'd take hundreds of people to pull off what we've seen so far and they'd never be able to keep them quiet,” The program director replied quietly, “but we can't help them because we aren't heroes. What we are, are the people who can make sure the heroes get a shit load of money when they finish the job.”
The manager perked up at that. “Yeah!”
Sloth ordered another beer.
“Weren't you in a hurry sugar?” the waitress asked, as she brought in his beer.
“Honey, when you're as fast a worker as I am, you never need to hurry.”
Xander leaned against Ted's car, his arms wrapped around Dawn, just enjoying holding her, while Ted kept an eye out the barely cracked open door.
“The zombies that were headed this way seem to be passing us by,” Ted said.
“Good, the less zombies the better.”
“I wonder where they're going?” Ted asked.
The dip in the sand, in the shape of a man sized figure with its head at an angle, snapped into a more normal position and the zombie that seemed to be walking on the air a couple of inches above it, fell to the sand like its footing had shifted.
Sand clung to the air, briefly outlining the assassin's shape, before cascading back to the ground.
The zombie climbed to its feet just before its head fell off for no apparent reason.
Footprints in the sand quickly appeared, passing zombie after zombie that seemed to develop the same problem, before they lead back to the gap in the fence, where the newly arrived zombies developed the same symptoms.
The sound of something slapping the ground and the occasional honk came from the back of the warehouse, slowly growing louder and more numerous as Xander stiffened.
Dawn stepped out of his embrace and checked her guns, while Xander growled at the darkness, drawing his machete.
“Xander?” Dawn asked softly.
“Clowns, why did it have to be clowns?” Xander asked. “I HATE Clowns!”
“Clowns?” Dawn asked, as a number of zombie clowns, with their big floppy shoes slapping the concrete, stepped out of the darkness.
“The Taisdale Video!” The necromancer and Holland chorused.
“Of course, now I know why it looked so familiar – Johnny Taisdale: The Clown Killer.”
“I remember that case,” The necromancer chuckled. “I never laughed so hard in my life, he dressed up like a little boy and killed clowns because of some incident at his fifth birthday party.”
“We got it dismissed for lack of evidence,” Holland said with a grin, “sure he released tapes but they never found the warehouse.”
“Hmmm, this may be a problem,” The necromancer pointed out, “we really can't afford to have the skeletons in the company closet coming out on their own.”
“We'd get buried by the sheer number of them,” Holland agreed.
“It may be in our best interest to insure their survival until they take care of the massed rising.”
“Unfortunately we have no way of recalling T’relk, are you sure killing them won’t end it?”
“Not really, the only clue we have is the book they're carrying, and that looks more like a prop from Evil Dead than anything else, if not for the fact that its raising zombies not deadites I'd think they'd managed to get a hold of the actual book from a dimension where the book was fact instead of fiction.”
“Not in this dimension, but if they had the book from there it would call them here. No, they are simply raising zombies, so it’s much more likely that a local necromancer created the book based on the movie,” The necromancer replied. “A poor prank really, it should have least raised perverted skeletons.”
“Before I started working here I assumed necromancers were solemn somber types dealing with the line between life and death with the same reverence the Catholic church reserves for high holy days...”
The necromancer grinned. “We do try and project that image, to keep away the riffraff, but to regularly raise the dead requires a sense of humor. I'm not sure why and the more knowledgeable in the craft won’t say.”
“Why not?” Holland asked curiously.
The necromancer shrugged. “They say it ruins the joke.”
Xander's right hand slashed out with the machete, taking off a clown's head while his gauntleted left hand smashed another's skull with frightening ease.
The sounds of huge flopping shoes on the pavement was drowned out by the sounds of falling bodies, as Xander tore into the mass of zombies in grease paint.
Dawn just stared as Xander dissected, disemboweled and decapitated every clown he got within arm’s reach of. She'd always thought he was joking when he talked about how evil clowns were, but seeing zombie clowns lurch out of the darkness, bumping into each other and causing their ever present horns to sound off, she realized he was right; the honking undead had to be stopped.
Despite her change of heart concerning clowns Dawn couldn't get within 20 feet of Xander without entering what she was calling ‘The Splatter Zone.’
“DIE CLOWN!” Xander roared, as he ripped the arm off of one clown and used it to smash in the head of another.
“I think … I'll let Xander handle this one himself,” Dawn said thoughtfully.
“Good call,” Ted agreed.
“Wow, he really hates clowns,” Harmony mused.
“If you'd been at Xander's fifth birthday party you'd understand why,” Cordelia replied wincing as Xander's actions actually made her feel sorry for the zombies.
“I had chickenpox.”
“A likely story,” Cordelia replied, knowing that Harmony's parents didn't like her mingling with the lower class.
“It happens. Now tell me about Xander's fifth birthday party.”
“The Clown came up behind Xander and pushed his face into the cake-”
“I always thought that was a mean thing to do,” Harmony interrupted.
“One of the candles went up his nose and he started bleeding,” Cordelia continued, “they removed the candle and plugged his nose and got him calmed down when the clown tried to cheer him up by making him a balloon animal … the clown then popped the balloon animal just as he touched it. I have no idea why anyone would find that funny.”
“Probably the look on their face.”
“Well in this case when it popped it got Xander in the eye.”
“So we have Xander screaming and holding his eye, the cake is covered in blood, and everyone is panicking now. So Xander was rushed to the hospital and while he was there, the doctor decided it was a perfect time to give Xander all his shots,” Cordelia continued to explain.
“Now that’s a good reason to hate clowns.”
T’relk finished off the zombies and circled around to the back of the warehouse, just because he was invisible and damn hard to keep dead for any real length of time didn't mean he was stupid enough to make it easy for people to find and kill him.
Zombies, that didn't breath or make any noise to let you know they were there, were deliberately excluded from the category of people, as was the Fedex driver, and that crazy guy who was practicing with a javelin down at the park.
“Got any spare paper towels?” Dawn asked Ted, as Xander stood in the middle of a splatter of corpses, drenched in gore and wearing a grin that would have made most vamps start looking for escape routes.
“I believe there are some in the trunk of your car,” Ted offered, having looked over Lust's car at Xander's requests, to make sure there were no surprises.
Sloth finished his beer and stood up, being sure to leave a decent tip before he headed out.
Stepping outside, he reached for his magic and tilted time in his favor by a factor of ten, as he began to jog at a steady 50 miles per hour, as he worked the kinks out from sitting and drinking beer his speed multiplied until he was cruising along at over 200 miles per hour.
Everyone Sloth did business with assumed he was at least part demon, even his fellow assassins, but the truth was he was simply a human with a curse.
Some amateur mage had gotten upset that Sloth liked to get up and go jogging every morning, so he'd cursed him.
A simple entropy curse would have caused his body to age and fall apart at an accelerated pace, but after being woken up every morning at 5AM the mage had wanted something harsher, so he'd modified the spell to ensure Sloth wouldn't die right away, but would be forced to perceive every moment as normal time.
Needless to say the effect was not what he'd intended. Sloth had turned around and found himself living in a world of statues; once he'd gotten over the initial shock he'd immediately set out to find out what had happened to him.
In the space of an hour he'd found out about the world of demons and magic and spent the next hour reading everything he could find in a local magic shop.
By 7PM that night he'd learned enough magic to take control of his curse and track down the person who'd cast it on him. He'd killed him in a particularly inventive way, involving a small fruit and a piece of string, before dropping back into normal time.
In a little over 14 hours he'd spent two solid months living in a world of statues.
When word had gotten out about what he'd done, the Terakan's had immediately offered him a place with them and he'd accepted.
Sloth wasn't a speed demon, he was simply a man who liked to jog and had one bad day that had changed his whole life.
T’relk carefully stepped around the pile of clown parts, trying not to disturb anything and give away his position, as he worked his way toward Xander.
“He's coming,” Ted said suddenly, drawing everyone's attention.
Before anyone could ask how Ted knew, the door burst open, pushing Ted back, and a red haired man was standing there.
“Alexander Harris and Dawn Summers I presume?” he asked, taking a mailing tube off his back.
“And you are Sloth, I'm guessing?” Xander replied, his left hand reaching for his shotgun.
“That's right!” Sloth replied and his form flickered for a second, as he pulled a flint tipped spear from the mailing tube and launched it at Xander faster than the eye could track.
The spear cut through T’relk without any perceptible loss of speed, before pinning Xander to the side of a shipping crate and knocking the gun from his hand.
“I quite liked Lust and Envy,” Sloth said conversationally, “but I guess all good things must come to an end.”
“XANDER!” Dawn cried out, ignoring everything else as she ran to him.
“Such a pity,” Sloth said as he increased his personal entropy to a hundred times normal and the world slowed around him.
Sighing he pulled out another spear and aimed it at Dawn's back, focusing on his target as he drew back his arm, but as he brought it forward somebody grabbed him.
Moving at 100 times human speed he turned his head and met a fist moving at the same speed coming from the opposite direction.
Dawn reached Xander's side and briefly attempted to pull the spear loose, but she couldn't get a grip with the blue ichor coating it.
“I promised you'd be okay,” Xander said, coughing up blood.
“I'm okay,” Dawn swore tearfully.
“Don't make a liar out of me,” Xander said weakly as his eyes began to close, even as he fought against it.
“I love you,” Dawn said, heedless of the blood and gore, she closed her eyes and kissed him one last time.
An amber glow grew in his eyes, the emeralds in Dawn's cat-head earrings reflecting the light and seeming to grow brighter as it faded before they too went out.
“Love you,” Xander said softly, as his eyes finally closed and his face went slack.
Dawn turned and walked away, tears in her eyes, not looking back. Finding Sloth with his head turned backwards and Ted sitting on the ground with smoke pouring from his joints didn't even surprise her.
“Ted,” she said sadly.
Ted's head turned just enough to face her. “I have a soul,” he said in a voice filled with wonder as he went still.
Dawn didn't even look when she heard movement behind her, she simply drew and unloaded her pistol, not wanting to see Xander's face when he came back as a zombie.
Behind her T’relk's invisible body twisted and vanished, as one of Dawn's shots shattered the crystal in his forehead; his one true weakness.
She reloaded and holstered her weapon, before snatching up her backpack, causing the pentagram to go out and headed for her car.
“Xander,” Joyce said softly in a mournful tone.
“He'll be missed,” Giles said as he held Joyce, unaware of the tears running down his face.
“Hell no!” Harmony snarled.
“What?” Cordelia asked, wiping tears from her eyes.
“I want my happy ending!”
“Sometimes it just doesn't work out that way, not all stories have happy endings.”
“If there's one thing that I know, it’s that in this life you have to make your own happy endings!” Harmony swore.
Cordelia gave off a bitter laugh. “What can we do about it? We're not exactly equipped to be monster hunters.”
“We're rich and we know how to shop, that's all we need.”
“That was unexpected,” Holland said.
“Agreed, I expected T’relk to be enough to handle the two,” The necromancer replied.
“A stroke of luck for us though, we can hold off on any further action until the problem is solved for us.”
“Fifty says she shoots at the boy the next time they meet.”
“Done, I'm pretty sure that since she shot one zombie Xander in the head she'll have no problem doing it again,” Holland said smugly.AN: Typing by Godogma, who giggled evilly over the number of death threats he said this chapter would garner.