Faith walked across the polished stone floor, her bare feet passing over the intricate mosaic pattern. Bangles of gold jingled on her ankles, on her wrists. Golden chains looped around her waist and neck, golden hoops glittered at her ears. Other than her jewelry, Faith was only covered by her long hair.
Handsome men lounged on pillows, smiling at her as she walked by them. Solid eyes gleamed in a variety of colors, and their smiles gave brief glimpses of sharp teeth.
Faith made her way towards the man reclining on the wide stone bench. Kneeling on the ground, Faith smiled and spoke a single sentence. Despite not recognizing the language, she knew the meaning of the words. "My lord, I have conceived. The healers estimate I will bear near the equinox."
His eyes were pools of green, and the teeth revealed by his smile would have been at home in the jaws of any shark. The efreet sheik Ja’habein spoke to the room, “Excellent. Let the people rejoice at our good fortune.”
Cheers emerged from the lounging men, now jumping to their feet and raising fists to the air. More shouting could be heard from beyond the room. From the sounds of it, the people were definitely rejoicing…
Faith awoke with a gasp. She clutched at Adam, eyes wide and unseeing as she stared at the ceiling. "A dream. Just a dream. That wasn’t me. I’m not prancing around naked on fancy stone floors in front of an audience. And I’m not pregnant."
Adam moved one arm over her, a sleepy murmur that didn't quite manage to be words emerging.
Faith buried her face in Adam's shoulder. She didn't know what to think of that dream. Maybe it was a vision. Maybe it was a nightmare. Maybe it was over-active hormones - all of those guys had looked pretty hot, and some of them had been dressed pretty similar to the Faith she'd been in the dream-vision-thing.
The woman in her... she was just going to call it a dream. The woman in the dream, the one who she'd been in the dream. She'd been pleased by the way the men had watched her, but had felt completely unthreatened. Had that been herself, or was she dreaming somebody else? Had there been any significance to the equinox, or was it just a random due date? Which equinox, spring or fall? Was it a Slayer dream, a maybe-part efreet thing, or should she just have not eaten that omelet right before bed?
Letting herself lean back against the bed, Faith took a deep breath and counted to ten before slowly letting the air out. Panicking now wouldn’t help at all. The best thing to do would be calm down, make notes about the dream-vision-thing and look for more information. Maybe check with Giles and Pazel to see what they might say. See if there was anything in the other information circles she’d found that might tie in, anything about upcoming events on or near an equinox, anything about possible political change. That guy hadn’t been all smiles and sharp teeth out of personal joy, there had been a bigger picture that the woman’s announcement had affected.
But what bigger picture? When had that dream-vision taken place? Was it the past? Was it now? Was it something that might happen in the future? She didn’t know, and Faith hated not knowing what could bite her in the ass. As a compromise, Faith would keep alert, try to learn what she could, and try not to stress about it. After all, it could have just been the omelet last night. Maybe.
She would have to ask Giles about equinox and efreet. She’d have to ask Pazel about efreets and sheiks and if the equinox had any special importance to them other than a seasonal marker.
And she’d have to make sure that she had her birth control thoroughly covering everything. She took the pills more for the regulation than the contraception, but there was also the implant. Because her mom had always complained that one method wasn’t always enough, she had proof of that. One thing that being a Slayer had taught Faith was that having the starring role in a prophetic vision generally sucked. Another was that just because a bunch of people seem happy about something happening, that didn’t mean it was a good thing.
She didn’t even know if the woman in the dream had been her or if she’d been seeing through some other person’s eyes. The woman from the dream had very pretty nails, sharp and well manicured, and her breasts might have been a little bigger, but that could have been eating better, or being pregnant just as easily as being not Faith. Or maybe becoming an efreet meant more than sharp teeth and different eyes, maybe it meant bigger boobs. She didn’t know, and she wasn’t about to ask Pazel if becoming an efreet would change her boobs. There were some things that she’d rather find out for herself, thanks very much.
Faith jotted down a few notes. Weird dream – maybe prophetic? Efreet woman, mosaic floors. Sheik ja-ha bean, baby on the equinox. She didn’t know if the woman had meant in the spring or the fall. She didn’t know if it would be his child or someone else’s or even if it mattered who’s baby it was. She’d ask questions later.
Adam noticed that something was off when the pair of them finally left the bed. He kept giving her worried looks through breakfast, though he waited until after omelets and coffee before he said anything at all. For a few moments, she contemplated trying to tell him it was nothing. If she’d been able to convince herself of that, she probably would have tried.
“Weird dream that might have been a vision,” Faith took another drink of coffee. “I don’t know if it was a vision or too many thoughts on efreet before going to sleep. I don’t know if it was important. I just know it was weird, like I was dreaming a bit of someone’s life, and it’s got me freaked out.”
“Were there any aspects that we can attempt to test on our own, without sharing with anybody else?” Adam looked concerned as well.
Faith felt better that he wasn’t dismissing her concerns as unimportant or telling her it was just a dream. Letting her mind wander over the details of the dream again, Faith sighed, “I can’t think of any.”
“Then what can we test without going into too many details?” Adam shook his head, “I’m reluctant to start talking about your dream without more information about our potential role among the efreet.”
“Maybe we can ask Pazel how common efreet babies are? If it isn’t a big deal to them, then it’s probably not something we need to worry too much about. If it is… well, he was just telling us we’re part efreet and that’s why things are happening, so of course there have to be some,” Faith looked at Adam, hoping that he could calm her down. Even if only by distracting her from getting all worked up.
“Not a bad place to start,” Adam agreed. Then he distracted her quite effectively.
End part 1.
“So I’m not a Slayer anymore,” Faith mused, sharpening one of her knives. “Now I’m part efreet, though I’m still not sure if it’s some old hidden heritage or contagion from kidnapping guy.”
“Which means you aren’t as strong as you used to be,” Adam cautioned. “Though it might be that your strength could increase, some of those fellows were stronger than ordinary humans, but I have no idea if that’s just being efreet or if time changes them… maybe us.”
“I don’t seem to be slower, just weaker,” Faith protested. “And the vamps don’t notice me as fast.”
“Because you aren’t a Slayer any longer.” Adam passed her another knife, and then smiled, “I like the idea that I have longer with you than you would have as a Slayer.”
“Were you planning on going anywhere?” Faith’s hands stopped, and she looked at Adam.
“No, my bright star. But Slayers die, and much sooner than those who are not. I wasn’t planning on leaving you until you die, but as a Slayer…” Adam shrugged, “Slayers burn bright and brief, then fall.”
“And now that I’m not a Slayer, now that I’m…” Faith sighed before whispering, “Now what do I do with my life? Now that I’m going to have one, maybe a very long one.”
“We have a life together, perhaps lasting centuries. Until we get tired of being together, without fear of time or death parting us from each other. I can show you so many places, we can see the world.”
“Considering that you used to go by Death, how big of a factor has that been in your past relationships?” Faith smirked at him.
Laughing, Adam shook his head, “That was only a problem once, and that was a long, long time ago. And most of the reasons for ending a relationship since then can be summed up as fear that my continued health would be at risk for trying and perhaps failing to hide my immortality, which won’t be a problem with you. Or the whole fact that so far as I know, immortals and ordinary humans can’t have children together, thus making any hopes of a family rather… futile.”
“It’s hard to think of you being afraid,” Faith admitted. “You just seem too together for something like fear.”
“Thousands of years are great for teaching you how to fake being calm,” Adam admitted. “There have been times on patrol with you when I felt absolutely terrified. There are also times when knowing that you aren’t going to die is no help at all.”
Faith thought about that for a few moments before voicing a soft “ouch.”
“Exactly. Now, since you aren’t a Slayer any longer, I will ask if you would please not try to patrol in the same way as when you were a Slayer. You don’t have the same strength, and you can’t use the same attack strategies.” Adam brushed his hands over a small ax, “I’m not asking you to stop entirely. Much as I’m sure I could keep you busy in more enjoyable ways, it’s your choice. I’m just asking you to be smart and careful about it.”
“Fair enough. While I do seem to be healing faster, pain isn’t my friend, and I don’t like the idea of getting messed up by some monster in the middle of the night. The idea of some vamp trying to make me his eternal snack is just…” Faith shuddered.
“Thoroughly unpleasant, and just like Jeremy, not something you plan to experience,” Adam nodded. “Another reason for keeping what we are, even if that isn’t quite what we thought, a secret. Especially from nasties that eat people.”
“Which is why we’re going to fight smarter, not harder. My goal is nasties dead and vamps dusted, not me standing in the spotlight as the big damn hero,” Faith put away the last knife, and glanced at the stakes. “More archery might be good, arrows can kill vamps just as dead as a stake from close range. A little harder to conceal, but I’m sure we can manage.”
“Faith? Again, I’m not trying to convince you to stop, but why do you want to continue hunting monsters? There are safer ways to spend our time,” Adam asked.
“I’ve seen too much of what they do, too much of what happens when someone’s too late to stop them. I can’t just ignore it when I could stop them,” Faith admitted. “I thought about it for a while, but I just couldn’t stand back and do nothing.”
“Then we kill them. Whatever makes you happy, my bright star,” Adam hugged her.
Faith just grinned. Things like that were why she stayed with Adam.
End part 2.
In a warehouse in a quiet section of town, a forgettable looking man frowned at the papers scattered over tables. This place had clearly been used as a base for planning, perhaps a hide-out as well. Not a dingy, dirty hide-out inhabited by someone trying to stay unobtrusive, but a lair by someone who wanted luxury and power and didn’t care about rules. Bedrooms were filled with heaps of covers that might have been silk and velvet, draped by curtains and heaped with pillows. The plates and cups were gleaming metal, polished and elegant, with tiny orange gems set around the bases of the more elegant cups.
The three cells complete with chains and manacles didn’t help, nor the fact that those cells did not have narrow, uncomfortable cots. Instead, the cells also had heaps of plush bedding and pillows, as well as doors that locked only from the outside.
The fact that the only weapons found were old-fashioned knives and heavy, curved swords instead of the more common firearms and mass-manufactured small knives did not lessen the disturbing impression of the lair. None of the pages of plans and writing were in English or any other language the man inspecting them could read. Some were clearly lists, though he did not know what they were lists of, and others seemed to be schedules, as a guess based on the formatting of the writing. Considering that the writing hugged the right hand side of the pages, he assumed it was some Middle-Eastern language. There were also several pages that seemed to be blueprints and security information of two impressive compounds. One was the sort of impressive wealthy compound with separate garage, security building and potential guest-houses that might be owned by wealthy Europeans or Americans. The other had a different style, one that, like the language, suggested the Middle East.
Hampered by not understanding the language, the man could only guess at some of the details, but the weapons, the cells, the blueprints – they all added up to law-breaking individuals planning bad things for people with money. Law-breaking individuals who probably didn’t have a very high opinion on personal rights by those outside their group.
The bright note was that the cells had been empty.
The troubling notes were the signs of a fight, and the absence of the people who had been staying here before said fight. There were bloodstains, and a few fallen weapons, as well as some broken chains. But no bodies, not nearly enough fallen weapons to go with all the bloodstains, and no sign of who or perhaps what had been chained. He felt a little concern about whatever had broken the chains – it looked as if the links had been forced open.
He suspected that someone had escaped whatever fight had taken place. He couldn’t help wondering if they would continue with whatever plans had been made at those tables.
End part 3.
End Bright Star 20: Troubling Glimpses.