The morning after
5. The morning afterDisclaimer: None of the characters are mine.
The next morning Faith woke as early as some birds, but not the resident one, who was already awake and stared at Faith from the top of its impressive height.
“Hello there, then,” Faith shrugged nonchalantly, as she climbed from her prickly hide-out. “I see that you’re looking better?” The last question was actually a compliment, for while the bird was still darkly feathered and bald, as a vulture or a condor, it no longer looked like a forgotten taxidermist’s triumph or an abandoned mummy. It now looked like more... a giant bird, or a bird-like creature, for now Faith could clearly see the talons on her wings as well as on her legs, and her body stance was definitely not that of a bird.
“Yes, I do,” the bird nodded quietly. “The skinwalker’s flesh and blood and magic brought my children back, brought me back. Are you ready to grant me my due?”
“Hasn’t the skinwalker already done that?” Faith didn’t back down. “’Cause I am sure that you told me that he had-“ she caught the bird’s look and sighed. “Look. I am not sure if I like you, and I am just as unsure if you like me. I am on the move anyways, so it’s very unlikely that we’ll meet each other ever again, so why the insistence?”
“I was a god. I brought storms and rains, thunder and lightning, life and death to the people of this land. I can do that once again. Your respect can help me with my new beginning.”
“And in return you ate people... among other things, I suppose. Vampire Slayers do not approve of such things – certainly my Watcher would not have, and she had a moral compass that I lack... so how about I give you my gratitude in helping to deal with the skinwalker instead. Is that good enough?”
“It is good enough for a start,” the bird did the odd head-and-neck bobbing movement. “Where are you going?”
“Towards sunset, towards my destiny, perhaps,” Faith shrugged. “Why do you ask?”
“A great evil spirit that reeks of fire and death is following you. Soon, he will catch up to you.”
“And if he learns that you helped me, he will kill you and your hatchlings, or at least enslave you and make you did his bidding” Faith said quietly. “I may not like you, but in your own way, you’re a better mother than mine ever was. My advice to you is to move someplace else from here. Perhaps to Las Vegas or something.”
For several moments the bird stared at the Vampire Slayer, who stared back – and for a long while neither blinked. “Are you going there as well?” The bird spoke, and Faith noticed for the first time that it no longer sounded as pitiful as before. “I know little of this place – the land has changed greatly while we slept.”
“That makes the two of us, though for different reasons, but perhaps I’ll be coming there too indeed,” Faith nodded calmly. “Maybe we’ll run into each other then.”
“Maybe, and thank you for the warning,” the bird spoke for the last time and walked back into the cavern, without looking back.
But then again, neither did Faith, as she turned around and walked towards the west, perhaps towards Las Vegas after all...* * *Several hours later...
“Well? Did you find anything?” Kakistos’ only eye was darkened with fury, and Mr. Trick felt like bending over backwards to get away with it.
“Well, yes, but no Slayer – just a lot of bones, human bones, mind you, but old ones – older than the Slayer. And a really big bird’s nest, but also empty, and apparently abandoned long ago.”
“Interesting,” Kakistos said, curious despite his best intentions. “I know that once a demon lord, Ghlaunder, dwelt in this place, though in disguise, as his kind tends to do. My lord, Azhi Dahaka, could perhaps do plenty in such a profane place as well.”
Mr. Trick, who claimed to be of royal blood and who knew something about magic as well, felt like pointing out that that empty place did not feel particularly profane, but quite wholesome, as a matter of fact. However, his master’s next words killed that impulse in the tracks:
“But first, Mr. Trick, we must catch that Slayer and make her pay. Then, and only then, we will return here, and see what can be achieved. Back to the car!”
Silently, though cursing the Slayer in question under his nonexistent breath for making Kakistos even more insane than before, Mr. Trick followed his master back to their car. It looked like the Native American wizard he had hired had failed, and they had to go to Las Vegas after all...