The Eye of the Matter - part 1
The Eye of the MatterDisclaimer: Most of the characters belong to Joss Whedon and co.; minor crossovers with South American myths and Harry Potter-verse
She dreamt of darkness that covered the whole world – there was no sun or moon and stars in the sky: everything was covered with deep, oppressive darkness.
It was quiet: there was no sound made by people, or animals, or even plants – all was quiet, almost like in a bog, and it stank, too, just like in a bog, even if it was just a dream.
“Hello?” Buffy called out, feeling completely lost. “Is anybody here or what?” she made a tentative step forwards.
Something rustled under her foot, and it was – when Buffy looked down – bones. Human bones, albeit ones that had probably been lying there for a long, long time – time that had reduced them almost to dust before Buffy had stepped on them and finished the job. “Oops.”
Now, only the skull remained, and there was something wrong with it, Buffy could almost figure it out, if only the light would not be so dim.
Wait! What light? Were not Buffy’s environs lightless just moments ago?
“Teu-teu!” And almost soundless, too?
Feeling confused and disoriented Buffy whirled around. She caught no sight of the forest bird, whose cry had echoed through the trees, but she did see something like a streak of dull light that was slowly crawling towards her.
Buffy froze. Something was off with this picture, she was sure that she could figure out what-
Instinctively, Buffy whirled around, only to re-discover herself back in Cleveland... with her shadow lying dimly at her feet due to a light source that was directly behind her... and a snake’s hiss in her ears...
And then she woke up.* * *
“Giles!” Buffy called out loudly as she descended into the common room from her own. “Can I ask you a question? What do snakes and swamp fires have in common?”
“Sorry, Buff, but G-man isn’t here yet,” Xander Harris, another one of Buffy’s best friends, replied instead, even as he continued to sort-of flirt with his girlfriend. “What’s up?”
“I had a Slayer dream. It involved snakes, swamp fires, and Cleveland. Any ideas?”
“Mmm... The fire snakes were – or are - ancient magical creatures, known since the times of the Egyptian pharaohs,” Melusine, Xander’s new stable girlfriend replied instead.
Glaring, Buffy gave Melusine the evil eye. To have Xander sort of resigned to attract mainly non-human girlfriends was one thing; to have him have one who was also a member of Wolfram & Hart was another. “Shouldn’t you be doing your job?” she sourly asked the humanoid female instead.
“I am doing my job – I am providing you the official disinformation set by Wolfram & Hart,” Melusine wasn’t backing down.
“Okay, and why is your law firm providing disinformation?” Buffy wasn’t backing down either. “Or producing it, whatever.”
“Because it’s important for our client’s sake,” Melusine shrugged. “Admittedly, he’s not one of our locals, a visitor from New York City instead, but a very important one, and currently, he’s quite angry.”
“About what? Snakes?”
“No, zombies actually,” Melusine shook her head, confusing Buffy once again.
“Um, Buff? Maybe Wolfram & Hart didn’t have anything to do with your dream? I mean, I don’t mean directly, I mean not at all?”
Before Xander could dig himself into an even deeper hole of diplomacy and what-not, Giles finally made his appearance, appearing not from his room, but from the front entrance – he had been driving Dawn to her new school. He also appeared to be rather agitated about something as well.
“Buffy, Xander, I think that we might have a situation on our hands,” he began, but unfortunately, Melusine decided to interrupt him at this moment:
“We most certainly do,” she said in a rather grand style. “A rather important client has come to our office talking as to how Ethan Rayne managed to steal some zombies off of him...or rather took them without paying, if you want to get technical.”
“Zombies?” blinked Xander.
“The man’s a necromancer, and we know that when it comes to Ethan Rayne, Mr. Giles is the man, so here we are.”
“And who’s ‘we’? Are we talking in a multiple monarchic tone here?” Buffy frowned in consideration, when another male appeared behind Giles. The newly arrived stranger was tall and dark and bore dark shades – a very cliché-looking villain by the Scoobies’ standards. He also had teeth that were somewhat too sharp to be human, so everyone present, even Xander, decided not to point that out to him.
“Ah, Mr. Zabini,” Melusine said, smiling widely instead. (Her own teeth didn’t look particularly human either. “Couldn’t wait, I see. Well, that’s Mr. Giles – he’s the man with the glasses – and I’m sure that he’ll be ready to co-operate with you regarding your situation with Ethan Rayne.”
“That might be an exaggeration, but not by much,” Giles said thoughtfully, when he saw Buffy’s look: a mixture of unhappiness, anger and caution. “But first, I need to check something out with my co-workers, if you don’t mind.” He quickly grabbed Buffy by the arm and led her into one of their sound-proofed areas. “What’s wrong?”
“Giles,” Buffy quickly exhaled after making sure that there were no obvious indicators that someone was eavesdropping on them. “Remember how Dawn and I told you that we had run into Ethan Rayne in Rome before?”
“Yes,” Giles frowned in thought even deeper. “I remember Dawn telling me that. She wasn’t very forthcoming on the details, and you were even less so. Was there a problem?”
“Yeah. We almost died at one point,” Buffy said tersely, “but the thing is, the thing is that Rayne had several zombies working for him at some point back then, and now, well, we’re encountering him and zombies again, at a certain sense. Of course, by ‘we’ I mean mainly me, but if Dawn was here, she’d back me up as well.”
“Oh dear,” Giles began to clean his glasses, “oh dear. Can you be more specific as to what Ethan was doing in Rome? It just might be important.”
“He was going to release a Mongolian death worm,” Buffy confessed. “Am I right in guessing that you know what that is?”
“Oh dear,” Giles repeated his earlier statement. “I do know, and I thought that these things were impossible to transport, on account on them being, well, deadly.”
“Hence the zombies,” Buffy said crossly. “Seriously, Giles, try to think outside the box every once in a while?”
“Good point,” Giles said sombrely, “now let’s go and rescue Xander, shall we?”* * *
“That was fast,” Melusine couldn’t help but point out when Buffy and Giles made their re-appearance.
“Yes, well, speed is Buffy’s primary specialty,” Giles said tersely as he gave the necromancer a stern gaze. “Now, uh, Mr. Zabini, can you and your, uh, lawyer, give us any details about your interactions with Ethan?”
“What interactions?” Zabini didn’t seem to be too phased by the change in Giles’s demeanour. “He asked to buy from me roughly half a dozen of zombies, took the merchandise, and didn’t pay for them!”
“Mmm... And are you aware if he took any travels abroad? To South America, to Brazil, say?”
“No, why?” the necromancer didn’t seem to be impressed or interested in Giles’s line of questioning.
“We have our reasons,” Giles said carefully. “So what, exactly, do you want us to do?”
“The New York City’s Wolfram & Hart’s office was brokering the deal,” Melusine replied instead, “and when it went sour, it made us look bad as well. We put a word out, and last night we received it, and by ‘we’, I mean the local office, myself included. What South America has got to do with it?”
Giles and Buffy exchanged a look, after which Buffy shrugged in a ‘go for it’ gesture, so that’s what Giles did. “Last time we’ve encountered Ethan, he was using zombies to transfer and release a deadly animal into a populated city area, the city being Rome.”
“And that’s what he is planning to do here?” Melusine pressed on.
“He has, we suspect. This morning’s newspaper talks about several people found in the area of Cleveland’s harbour, with their eyes missing.”
“Sounds more as a ritual than a monster,” Zabini shook his head.
“Perhaps, but Mr. Cohen had discussed that in detail back when he was alive,” Giles wasn’t deterred. “This is the mark of Boi-Tata, the fire serpent, a very ancient and nasty monstrosity of South America.” He paused. “Admittedly, it is not the most powerful of the monsters of the world, but it is hard to track down and identify if one doesn’t know what one’s dealing with and it is very hard to destroy – and it feeds on eyes, primarily human eyes.”
“So what he gains if he releases this pre-deluvian antique here?” Melusine’s own eyes had hard-ened significantly. “Wolfram & Hart knows of these creatures and they’re reckoned to be more trouble than they’re worth.”
“Ethan’s a chaotician – he doesn’t care about control, only about stirring trouble and chaos,” Giles shook his head. “We - the Vampire Slayers and co. – will help you track him down, but if his latest pet is around, it might get tricky, and what about the zombies?”
“Regular zombies,” Zabini shrugged nonchalantly, “and I am aware that they can be troublesome to recover. I just want my money’s worth from Ethan, and the rest – the rest of you can sort it out.”
“You’re too kind,” Buffy said with a grimace. “Well, if that’s that we’ll start to sort it out on our own.”
“I’ll get the tracking devices,” Melusine said quickly, which elicited a stare from Buffy – usually she wasn’t so helpful.To be continued...