Xander spent the next day in a haze. Whatever Tshilaba had given him he was going to carefully request that she absolutely never give it to him again. He couldn’t focus on anything, his words stumbled and he felt so very weak. It would have been great to prank someone else with, emphasis on the someone else. He could feel the Witchblade on his arm radiating… something. Concern? It was hard for him to think about, but he kept reminding himself that he had to be sick today so he could get all the answers tonight and that seemed to satisfy the mystic weapon for the time being.
Willow hovered over him with concern and Buffy tried to get him sent home. But then she remembered what happened to his home, and that didn’t go well. Eventually even Snyder had to admit that Xander was more than a little ill and he tried to get Xander sent home, but given that there was no one at his home when Ms Calendar offered her office for him to pass out in the principal accepted and Xander did just that until school let out when Jenny drove him home so he could rest.
On the way back Janna gave him the antidote and by the time they got to her place he was feeling 100% better. He was ready to swear off any drink given by the old woman when he stepped inside and saw the large open space in the middle of the room that had been cleared and a chalk circle made. Tshilaba was sitting inside the circle with some tea, obviously waiting for him.
“Leave everything outside the circle, bag, wallet, everything. You might want to leave your socks and shoes as well. It is not yet closed, but do not smudge the lines when you step inside,” she explained as he set his bag down against the wall and doing what she told him. When he was barefoot he moved into the circle and sat down on the floor in front of her. She passed him some tea as Syeira lit the candles around them.
“You have to understand that we don’t really know what is going to happen when we start. This ritual has not, could not, be performed successfully in the last thousand years because there has been no wielder. The stories tell of many things happening. It seems to depend on the person as to how they are affected. Drink your tea.” He drank the tea and she lit a candle which she set down in front of him before she got up to leave the circle. Once she was out Syeira chalked the rest of the circle closed and touched it with a finger and a few words.
“That’s going to be a pain to clean up,” Xander slurred and looked down at the tea mug slipping slowly out of his numbing hand. “No fair…”
Tshilaba nodded to Syeira and together they began to sing softly. The song that had helped calm the Witchblade before, the words he couldn’t get and the melody that he could barely grasp. The Witchblade came alive and began to creep along his arm and leg from where he held on to keep himself upright.
“The Blade was made when gods and demons walked the earth and humans were a small, but swiftly growing, band of creatures in a wide and dangerous world,” the old woman’s words flowed over him and snatches of images passed across his vision. The smoke from the candle twisted gently in the air.
“There is no Darkness or Angelus like in your comics. But there are other things, powers of light and dark, good and evil. They have gone by many names. Now they are known as the Powers That Be, and The Senior Partners. Or simply the Powers and the Partners.”
When the gods walked the Earth it was a tremendously dangerous place. Looking at the wrong creature coming over a hill could drive one to jabbering madness or states of rapture and euphoria. They were often opposed to one another for various reasons, territory, worshipers, boredom. And while these clashes were not frequent their scars on the land were unforgettable. Mountains ripped apart and oceans boiled, land became cursed and the psychic backlash left people maddened and with warped bodies.
And when it looked like the wars would never end, they paused as they felt something new. A child, a young human girl with the soul of a demon thrust into her with new, mortal magic. Those that could perceive the flow of time watched as this new thing diverted the path that had been set and the rise of humanity had begun. And the age of gods and demons was coming to an end, one way or another.
The most powerful were selected of those gods to represent all, the Powers, Lion, Eagle and Bull and the Partners, Wolf, Ram and Hart. Behind each the legions of lesser gods and demons waited.
Much was said about the past, present and future. Some argued that the new thing should be unmade, but others said the past should be immutable, and killing it would only give rise to another. They argued and insulted, spitting words back and forth as the power they wielded was enough to unmake all there was. And no agreements were made. And so it continued until the time of the brief treaty ran low and something new came again.
This time it was one of the unaligned gods, who brought it about, such a small thing, a spider which led a girl, wearing clothes of gray, spun from the spider’s own silk to protect her mind and body from the ravages of the power that the gathered throng turned towards them.
“These new things cause so much worry,” the spider said, a small black body upon her hand held before her forehead above her mismatched eyes of blue and green. “They were not made by us and yet they came to be, and now they forge a future for themselves. This child, born of rape, loved by her broken mother, abandoned to live on her own when her mother was taken from her, innocent of good or evil. Is it not she and the future that she represents what brought you here now?”
The gods and demons were outraged and insulted as to how the lowly spider spoke to them, and had it not been for the treaty he would have been destroyed and his essence scattered to the stars. And yet, some listened, and heard the truth of his words.
“Why not hear the words of this child. Ask her what she wants of you. And if you are wise, listen to her.” There were cries of outrage at this, but the Wolf and the Eagle silenced them all and they turned to the girl.
“What of it, child?” The Eagle asked. “Make your wish and if it is wise we may grant it.”
“Tell us, what do you want?” The Wolf echoed. “Riches, glory, power? Your enemies brought low, a family to keep you safe. For all of us here nothing is impossible now.”
The girl was in awe, overwhelemed by the possibilities. And though she yearned for power, and riches and all that they could bring all she felt was the ache in her heart. Not for family to keep her safe or for vengeance, but for peace.
“Go away,” she spoke softly, and yet all those around heard and were silenced by her words.
“Say it again,” the spider urged. The small god had found the girl and felt pity, it cared for her and taught her many things, though it could not give her all she needed or desired.
“Go away,” she said again, and the gods and demons were still. In all their arguments, back and forth the thought of simply leaving had never arisen. “I know you can’t die, not like me. I was told there are other places, like this but not this, other worlds, a step in a direction I cannot go. Don’t go there either. Go above, go below, go between, but do not come back.”
“What she says is possible, we can go to those places,” the Wolf allowed, acknowledging the cunning of the girl.
“But we cannot trust you,” the Lion growled. “Once we agree and go, you will take all the land and then we shall return and the wars will be even worse.” There were rumbles of dissent on both sides, neither could trust the other.
“Then give up the power,” the spider said hastily before his small voice could be lost in the growing argument.
“We could…” the Ox stated after a long silence.
“It would need a willing, mortal host…” the Ram acknowledged.
“Who will conduct the ritual?” The Bear asked, looking to the spider, but another spoke up.
“If this assembly allows, I shall conduct the ritual and in return my children and I will remain,” Oberon, lord of the Sidhe spoke as he stepped forward beside the girl. “We are of this world, much like the humans, though born of the new magics and given life. To give up our power and move between would unmake us and so we must stay.”
The Powers and the Partners looked to one another and agreed that this was to be the way, and so the accord was set. And they looked to the girl who was afraid, but she nodded as well.
“Your wish shall be granted then, little girl. But you shall also carry its burden, wise as it was,” the Eagle announced. “Some of our children will remain, those whose blood has thinned and become mortal, but we will be gone just as you wished.
“You shall be killed and granted eternal life,” the Ram gloated. “Given the power of gods and demons but unable to use any of it for yourself.” And the girl grew even more afraid, but Oberon put a hand on her shoulder and calmed her.
“What they say is true child,” but the cunning lord grinned down at her. “But know this. They are running away, leaving this world for your people because they are afraid of what may come.” He led her to an altar which was formed from stone, upon which the agreement was struck. “Your people have trapped a demon in a girl to kill the demons that threaten them. And one day they may trap a god in another of their children to kill gods. And so they run because you, little girl, scare them.”
The little girl smiled at the Fey Lord and knew that he could not lie even as the gods and demons gathered their power. She got up onto the altar and lay down as chains of gold, silver, iron, copper and other metals strange and mundane bound her wrists and ankles.
As each of the gods and demons gave up that portion of their power that let them manifest in the world they faded, stepping elsewhere to observe the ritual. Oberon gathered the powers together into a stone ring around the girl, letting them flow together into a loop of power that grew brighter as each being gave up their power. However the spider remained, staying with the girl and singing softly to her to let her know he was staying with her until his very last moment.
“Wise spider, my next child shall be given your form and commanded to honor your cunning,” Oberon said to the spider as he wove magic and conjured a shard of ruby as long as his arm and formed it into the knife.
One after the other the gods faded and demons stepped between. They could still touch the world, reach into the minds of their followers and those attuned to their powers, but no longer would they walk the Earth. Finally only seven remained with the girl and Oberon. The six great ones and the tiny spider who sang to the girl as the whirlwind of power began to collapse inward.
At its crescendo the spider threw its power in and disappeared just as Oberon thrust the ruby knife into the girl’s heart and killed her. But she was not allowed to merely die. The power flooded into the knife and poured into the girl who was forced to live and feel every instant.
Her mind shattered at the power that boiled and rolled through her body, a new awareness beyond that of the mere mortal realm overwhelmed her senses and she saw the gods and demons as they truly were. She screamed and thrashed as the power changed her. She strained against the chains that bound her, her bones snapping as her muscles pulled on them beyond the breaking limit, her muscles tore and her skin shredded, the silk clothing that had protected her before were stained with her blood as she grasped the chains and some of the power called to them.
The chains flowed around her broken body as the six began fading from view. Her body curled around the ruby dagger as the metal consumed her flesh and her body changed.
Oberon backed away as the ruby dagger shattered under the pressure, a single large piece remained lodged in the metal, an eye through which what remained of the broken girl’s mind could watch. On either side, small gems rested, made from the material left of the girl’s body.
The entire valley in which the gods and demons had gathered was silent and empty of life save for the Lord of the Sidhe. Oberon looked at the altar with the twisted metal and watched as it slowly pulled in to form a sphere before it stilled.
“And what now, child?” his resonant voice carrying well in the silence. “Your people are free of them, mostly. Their minds can still be touched, but doing the bidding of those beings now gone will be a matter of free will. Something your people have in abundance.” The red eye regarded him. “Would you like to come with me? Leave this desolate place?” He reached out towards the sphere but before he could touch it energy lashed out from the orb, cracking the stone altar and sending bands of wrathful energy out in all directions, some of which broke against the protective magical dome which suddenly surrounding Oberon and the Sidhe lord withdrew his hand. “I’ll take that as a ‘no’. I understand, my part in your demise was no small one. But remember that you brought it on yourself.” He bowed to her and turned to depart, fading into the landscape. "We shall cross paths again. I am sure of it."
For a long while the orb remained on the broken altar. Seasons passed and the land that had been desolate began to host life once more. Grass grew along the walls of the valley and flowers bloomed. Animals followed after a time and it became rich with life, though sometimes things would not grow right and animals might take on ghastly or beauteous changes as they were born or grew. Remnants of the power that had been there remained in the land.
It took time but eventually a human came, hunting for food, a stone tipped spear and wearing animal hides. He surveyed the valley and found it to his liking. He set about seeing what animals came through when he saw the irregularly placed stone at the center of the valley, some distance away, and the glint of something that lay on top of it.
Cautiously he made his way towards it and found the broken altar, and though surrounded by verdant growth, nothing grew on the altar, which left the orb there plain to see. Metals were extremely valuable to the man and his tribe. Also it was small enough that he could take it and move on without losing any time. He reached out, picking up the orb, slightly larger than a fist and looked into the red gem buried in its surface. Truly a blessed day to find such wealth. It was at that point that he blacked out.
When he awoke it was to find that his arm had been covered in metal such as he had never seen before. He shouted and tried to pull it off, hitting it against the altar, pulling at it with his hands and even going so far as to try to use his stone dagger and spear to get it off him. However nothing worked. With haste he abandoned his hunt for food and ran back to his tribe through the night and the following day, collapsing on the outskirts of the nomadic village.
When he woke the shaman told him of the dangers he felt from this thing, and sent him off to the city of earthen walls. He went, traveling far and having adventures along the way, in which the gauntlet with the red eye saved his life many times bringing forth blades and weapons as were in legend. And while the Gods had gone, their spawn remained and the lands were still dangerous to dwell in alone. Eventually he made his way to the town, and the priest there sent him on to the sorcerer of the city of stone walls. When he arrived there the sorcerer greeted him and ushered him in. Using magic and alchemical methods he devised, he learned much about the gauntlet, but was unable to remove it from the man, but still he tried.
Until one night when he brought forth a potion that would let the man see how to free himself. And the warrior drank, thankful to the weapon, but wishing to be free of it none the less. However he was tricked and the potion was a poison, the sorcerer had come to covet the gauntlet for he imagined ways it could augment his abilities and grant him ruler ship over the province and beyond. But even when the warrior died and the gauntlet removed it would not consent to the sorcerer, devouring his arm in the attempt to call it forth against its will.
The servant girl found the sorcerer dead from blood loss along with the poisoned warrior and the gauntlet which called to her. When she touched the gauntlet it became a necklace which she put on, and she was not afraid. That was how the artifact was first transferred from wielder to wielder and so it continued for centuries. Its form changed from person to person, so few knew it to be a single item, passed down through the generations.
At times it would be lost, or hidden away, sometimes those that came for it would be rejected and none would have it for a time. But then it would be found and a warrior would rise. They were not always heroes that held the artifact that became known as the Warlock’s Edge and the Witch's Blade to those that knew its secret, though it went by many more names by those that held it and did not know its past. Some led armies of conquest, taking delight in battle and bloodshed. Others led secret wars against those that worshiped the departed gods and tried to call them back to the world. Still others were hunted for what they had and fought to survive in dark times while others became rulers both benevolent and cruel.
Some stood out in the flow of time, the woman that stood behind the assassin king, more subtle and dangerous than any who had taken the throne with a ruby pummeled dagger that never failed to strike the perfect blow. A whale hunter of ancient might who went out alone and brought back beasts of unfathomable size with only a harpoon. A tribal warrior in the dark heart of Africa where he lifted a kingdom from obscurity and yet within a generation after his departure it fell and its name was lost even to history. An Egyptian queen who’s enchanted scepter struck out like a serpent against those who would do her harm. A Spartan warrior king who stood alone against the might of an empire even after his band of a mere three hundred had died for their homeland, his sword and shield the deadliest yet encountered. A pair of sisters, of Amazonian prowess, fought alongside the armies of Rome throughout the European continent, trading back and forth the weapons that made them formidable.
Until the last, a Viking who was consumed by madness before the Blade was put in his hands. His path of conquest was wide and his wrath terrible, and for years his name was synonymous with that of the demons long forgotten. Another army formed to oppose him, gathered under the claw winged banner of a woman without name. The battles that followed were ghastly. Days upon days of bloodshed both human and non, for the armies were not merely human, but on both sides were the creatures, long descended from the ancient things which had bestowed the Blade with their power, and other, stranger things besides.
However, he eventually fell, and a cabal of allied witches stole his soul away, binding it in a dark box. His lieutenants rushed to his body to claim the Blade for themselves but it denied them. Nor did it reach for any of those of the allied army when they came for it. The Blade was taken away, and the woman who led the army demanded the Blade destroyed. However the assembled witches and mages could not destroy the weapon, at the height of their power they could merely shatter its form. When they did the pieces began to quickly draw together around the crimson gem, but a Warlock snatched up the gem and using the last of his power cast a spell of Sleep on the eye and the pieces stilled.
From there the pieces were taken and scattered across the globe, some were small, mere slivers of metal, while others were large shards.
Lost for ages, until a new power, a brother in power from across the gulf of universes came and woke her back to the world.
He saw, heard, felt, remembered, and that way he understood. He laughed and cried, rejoiced and mourned. He held the broken child close as it smiled and sang to him. It was glad that he accepted it after being alone for so long.
Xander became aware of himself in the void, holding the Blade in the form of the orb it had first taken. He held it up without fear and it spread slowly along his arms. It poured along his arms and across his shoulders before spreading along his chest and back. He felt strong and peerless as muscles woven from the strange alloy of the Blade spread under the topmost layer to give his form a definition of strength he never had before. Scales in a myriad of metallic hues linked together in seamless perfect armor. A helm rose and wrapped over his mouth and nose and he felt no fear for he could breath as naturally as though it was not there at all. His eyes were covered in ruby but his vision was clear as he watched Guile approach, appearing out of the void.
"Impressive," the demon like aspect looked over Xander and the boy suddenly knew how he appeared. The helm angular and regal, a hawk-like wedge in gold running down from where his hair line was ending sharply at his chin framing the crimson eyes in copper. Silver and black bars ran along his armored cheeks.
"The falcon," the Primal laughed as he stepped forward. "Swift, sure, one strike, one kill. A worthy ideal." The armor shifted slightly and the scale armor became briefly a closer likeness to feathers. However they returned to the more sturdy form as Fortitude appeared as well.
"It's not so different from things later in Sara's memories that we have. After her meeting with the Curator." She nodded with appreciation.
"Somewhat," Guile admitted as he observed Fortitude's memories. "But we didn't wait seven years to seek the knowledge and gain the benefit."
"Easy on Sara," Zen said as he walked out. "She was dealing with a lot more than we are. Irons, Nottingham, Estacado, Selene, and a ton of other people screwing with her life not to mention what happened with Jake and Woo." Images of those he mentioned appeared as he mentioned them. Manipulators, enemies, lovers, friends. "And things didn't get easier from there. Got to say that I don't think things are going to go particularly well for us either. We all saw what the origin and history is. I get the feeling that it is all about to start up again."
At his words the armor bristled, its armored scales rising and the points gleaming briefly before it settled once more, though there was a sense of anticipation that came with it. The armored helm pulled back from around Xander's head and he grinned broadly.
"I don't know about you guys. But I'm ready to see how deep this rabbit hole goes." The armor continued to recede pulling towards his right wrist where it collapsed into itself, a metal bracelet braded and twisted with no beginning or end. The red eye captured in its woven strands. Xander lifted his hand and tendrils extended outward towards each aspect and they reached out in return. Once they grasped the strands they flowed into the bracelet and into Xander once more.
"So..." Xander looked around. "Do I wake up now?"
"You're a strange one, lad," a deep voice spoke from behind Xander and he turned to see a legion of people standing, watching. Men and women from history, white, black, Asian, garbed in clothes and armor seldom seen outside of ancient paintings or recreations. A barbarian man with an arm band that looked surprisingly familiar stood at the fore and it was clear he had been the one who spoke. "But after a thousand years, a bit of strangeness is acceptable." There were murmurs of assent from the others and Xander realized that these were the other wielders from before the Blade was shattered. Each of them with a garment or weapon made from the Witchblade, just as he now wore the bracelet.
"Welcome Alexander," a woman with a golden spear, a red gem glinting from its head, stepped forward. "We've been waiting for you." She stepped aside and beckoned him to join her and walk among them.
The cocoon in the middle of Janna's home had been motionless for some time now. The women would check on it now and again, but with no change they were starting to get a little worried that something had gone wrong. Finally, late in the evening it peeled back and opened, revealing Xander inside, his clothes torn to shreds, but otherwise unharmed. He sat up slowly as the shell opened like a flower around him. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust and look around.
"About time," Syeira said as she walked up to the edge of the chalk circle. "You still you?"
"Yea, still me. How long?" Syeira glanced at her grandmother who nodded after a moment and the girl broke the circle and they passed Xander a sheet to cover himself with.
"Three weeks," the girl spoke solemnly.
"What?" Xander's eyes grew wide. "Three... weeks? But I just... Oh man, Willow is going to kill me." He looked down at the remnants of the cocoon which lay on the floor. He looked back to see Syeira grinning and Tshilaba reached over to smack the girl in the back of the head.
"Ignore her. It has only been three days." She pushed some clothes into his arms. "Go get dressed." Xander did so after shooting a glare at the girl who was still laughing to herself. "Janna is out on patrol with the Slayer and her friends." She informed him when he returned. He saw Syeira was busy cleaning the chalk circle from the floor. He reached out towards the remnants of the shell which was still quite a large quantity of the Blade's organic metal. Part of it rose, forming into a slender arm from the shape of twisted shards. He grasped the hand and it flowed up his arm, drawing the rest of the material up into the Witchblade bracelet that lay comfortably round his wrist.
"Three days was still a long time." he smiled at the astonished look on the gypsy girl's face. "Did I miss anything?"
"Well, it seems everything was successful. You'll have to tell me about the experience later," the elderly woman smiled thinly. "As for your friends, things never seem to be dull around here. There has been the issue of your Slayer friend accidentally killing her mother's boyfriend. I am not clear on the details. You have been 'under quarantine' to prevent your friend the young witch from finding out about this all. She was rather resistant to the suggestion I put her under. But Syeira has been keeping her updated as to the extent of your 'illness'."
"Your friends are an interesting bunch," the girl said as Xander turned towards her. "Willow is quite cute, and she isn't nearly as shallow as Cordelia which is a nice bonus." She rose up and pulled out her phone, sending a quick text message before putting it away. "Well, shall we go find them?"
Xander’s first impulse was to say it was night and therefore dangerous. However he stopped and looked down at the Witchblade on his wrist and smiled.
“Absolutely,” he put on his socks and shoes and together they walked out into the comfortably warm southern California night.
Syeira got a text message a little later as they made their way to the most likely graveyard. “Whoops…” she kept reading. “Uh… Janna shot Giles with a crossbow. He’s alight, but she’s taking him back to his place to patch him up.” She texted something back. “I’m asking her where the others are, if they’re with them or not.” They continued walking and Xander practiced with how to move the Witchblade now that he was aware of what it was and had gotten some advice from the previous wielders.
"Alright, she said that Willow and some of the others are checking out some weird stuff and Buffy is doing her patrol." She looked at Xander. "Well, up to you then. She didn't know where Ted's house is, where the others are, and Buffy being on patrol is hardly exact."
"We can wait at Buffy's house. She'll be back there eventually." He shrugged and headed off towards Buffy's house. Syeira tried to ask him what it was like to be inside with the Witch's Blade and Xander tried to explain some of it. He was getting to the part where the girl became the Witchblade when he heard the scream. "Dawn," his eyes widened as he recognized the voice and he bolted off, the armor pouring up along his arm and across his body swiftly as he rushed off to help the younger sister of his Slayer friend.
*** Moments earlier ***
Dawn Summers was a known nightmare when attempting to cook anything. Pots and pans screamed at the very thought of her using them for any ill fated journey into trying to make food. Quite fortunately this limitation did not prevent her from cleaning said pots and pans, much to her chagrin. Dawn was preoccupied with the cleaning up after dinner, her mother was down in the basement someplace looking for a piece she had brought home from her art gallery and Buffy hadn't come home from whatever it was she did, so she was the only one who heard the door open.
"Welcome back sis," she called and put a pan away before walking towards the living room. "I wanted to ask if I could borrow your..."
"Hey there Dawn," Ted smiled at her, impossibly perfect Ted, dead Ted, accidentally killed by her sister just a few days ago, was standing in the living room. "Buffy not home yet? Shame, she and I have a lot to talk about." He looked at the wash cloth in the stunned girl's hands and past her into the kitchen where some dishes were still on the counter waiting to be cleaned. "There was a family dinner and you didn't wait for me? That's very rude to not invite your new daddy for dinner." The slight spasm in his neck caused his head to twitch and Dawn did the only reasonable thing at that point. She screamed.
Xander arrived fully armored at the door and saw a man who was supposed to be dead reaching for Dawn. He had met Ted just once but he seemed nice, but anything that came back from the dead in his experience wasn't nice. Buffy excluded of course. He wanted to stake Ted as he would any vampire, but he was too close to Dawn and he couldn't risk her. So instead when he got in reach he grabbed the vampire by the head and attempted to throw him back out the open door. Unfortunately the vampire was a LOT heavier than he expected and didn't go nearly as far as it should have.
"That wasn't very nice," Ted said as he began to get up. But Xander didn't give him time to vamp out and get serious while Dawn was still at risk. So he stepped forward and kicked hard. His strength enhanced not only by adrenaline but also by the fantastic organic musculature that encased his body. Vampire Ted was punted out the door, clipping the side with his head and splintering the wood frame of the doorway. Xander looked back at Dawn who looked ready to scream again as she looked at the monster with metal skin.
Xander didn't have time to reassure her as he saw that Ted was already getting up again. And now that he had been invited in being outside the threshold wasn't enough distance for Dawn to be safe. So Xander strode out, one hand grabbing a large chunk of the broken doorframe and yanking it off, the improvised stake still one of the best weapons against vampires.
"Assaulting a man in his own house," Ted said, a twitch evident in his grin as he looked at the approaching armored form. "What has the world come to?"
He still hadn't vamped out and that confused Xander somewhat, but he didn't think about it too much as he closed with the man, shoving the length of wood into Ted's chest. The man's grin turned manic as Xander tilted his head in surprise and the man grabbed Xander's arm.
"Nearly got me there," he said before turning and using strength well beyond that of any of the vampires he had known to date he hurled Xander's armored body out over the line of parked cars by the side of the street and nearly all the way across to the cars parked on the far side. Xander tumbled across the asphalt somewhat shaken before he rose and saw Ted pluck the length of wood out of his chest and toss it away before using a finger to probe the hole in his shirt it had left.
"No way," Xander murmured to himself. "That should have worked." He drew on the Witchblade some more and an ax began to grow from his right hand.
Ted and Xander were about to face off again when Dawn chose that moment to scream again before slamming the front door hard and running around inside, her antics visible through the open windows to the living room. Both looked at the door then back at each other.
"I'll have to speak with her about slamming doors and use of indoor voices," Ted said and looked at Xander. "After I'm done dealing with you. One thing at a time." He pointed at Xander and the tip of his finger at about the first knuckle dropped away to reveal a tube.
"Oh, no way," Xander had just a moment to dive to the side when the bullets fired from Ted's finger. The line of bullet holes that appeared in the cars behind Xander made him wonder if the Witchblade would be able to stand up to them. Contemptuously the Witchblade thickened its armor and reinforced the thin places around his joints.
Reassured Xander rose and the bullets began bouncing off his armor as he approached the... vampire with a gun for a hand? He'd have to think about that. He could still feel the bullets hitting the armor, but they didn't feel life threatening. And just when he thought he'd be able to finally deal with Ted, things got worse.
Buffy was used to hearing screams, but the screams of her sister were something new. She didn't stop to think as she ran down the street. She saw two figures, one standing on her lawn with a gun, the other a demon with armor like skin and an ax for a hand walking towards the first guy. Someone was defending her house. She'd have to thank him later after she dealt with the demon.
Buffy tackled the demon and tried to shove a stake into its heart. It wasn't a vampire, but a big pointing thing through a demon's heart still stopped most of them. Unfortunately the skin that looked like armor was thicker than she expected and the stake just skid across the surface as she tried to drive it in. Well, if bullets didn't get through, then the stake, even with Slayer strength, was perhaps a bit too much to hope for.
Xander was surprised at the sudden blur that tackled him to the ground and when he saw it was Buffy on his chest he was further surprised at the stake she tried to shove into his chest.
"Not a-" he stopped when he saw a figure looming up behind her and instead took a swing with his ax arm at Ted, lopping off his gun hand before he could take the fatal shot at the back of Buffy's unprotected head.
Perceiving an attack Buffy rolled off the armored demon, bouncing up into a crouch she was surprised to see the man clutching at the stump of his arm and his hand was on the ground, more than that, she recognized him. Ted, but... she killed him... right?
"So much for two birds with one stone," he twitched and lifted the stump and they could see the wires that now sparked from the end. "I'll have to get a spare from home after we're done here."
The armored demon rose but instead of attacking her, the Slayer, he turned towards Ted. Ted lifted his other hand and a hole opened in the palm, but before he could launch whatever new attack he had in mind, Xander's ax arm swept down and severed that entire arm off.
"Well, that complicates things..." The robot twitched as he looked down at his severed limbs.
"Oh, just cut his head off already. I'm sick of hearing him speak." Syeira stepped out of a shadow, she looked somewhat winded, but not too badly. Buffy watched as the armored figure nodded and the ax swept across, removing Ted's head. The body swayed back and forth before turning and starting to walk away. The armored figure shook its head before another almighty swing with the ax split it in half from neck to crotch, the two halves falling apart and sparking for a few moments before going dead.
Xander turned and was about to retract the armor when he got a kick in the head from Buffy that sent him down again with his head ringing.
"Hey!" Syeira shouted as she ran over, getting between Buffy and Xander. "What the hell? He just saved your sister from a killer robot."
"I'm the Slayer, I slay, vampires, demons..." she paused and looked between the armored figure and the robot bits scattered across her lawn. "Robots. Get out of the way Sarah."
"Not a robot, or vampire, or demon," Xander said as he rose, his voice muffled and distorted by the helm covering his mouth, the ax arm flowing back into his regular armored arm, but the Witchblade would not come off while Buffy was still ready to fight.
"Hush you," Syeira turned towards him and blew some dust off her finger that glittered in the air around his head. She turned back to Buffy while Xander found that he couldn't hear himself speak when he tried to object. "I've told you three times now, it is pronounces Syeira, not Sarah. And this is my golem," she pointed to Xander who was wondering what the hell she was up to.
"That's nothing like Gollum," she had met Syeira when Jenny had introduced them. Cordelia seemed to like her and Willow kept asking her things about magic and learning from her. However the two of them never really seemed to get along.
"You are the reason I hate American," Syeira shook her head. "All pop culture and no education. A golem is a something given humanoid form and animated with magic to do someone's bidding." She stepped aside and let Buffy see Xander's armored form more fully. "The original story has them made from clay, but I wanted to make it from something more durable if it is going to help clean this city of vampires."
"Hey! Vampires are my job. I don't need any of your help. Or help from that thing," she looked at Xander. "Besides, that thing is just creepy." Her words stung Xander and his shoulders slumped a bit.
"There are still vampires, lots and lots of vampires. You need help. And given that Jenny just shot Giles with a crossbow, oh relax, he's fine. But given that one person is wounded and the other should have known better than to go out vampire hunting without more help, you're down some help. My golem can work on its own, is probably stronger than you, certainly tougher than you. We'll take the graveyards on Hawthorn and Miller. You can take the others."
Buffy was momentarily struck speechless. Giles being hurt by Jenny was rather shocking news, but this girl, just declaring that she would take over patrolling some of her territory.
"You can't just do that," Buffy's protest was full of anger.
"I think I just did. And when we prove it works, maybe I'll show you the secret behind how I made it," she turned towards Xander who was grinning behind his hawk like helm. This way he could establish himself safely as the 'golem' and then when she admitted how effective it was he could reveal himself.
"Come on, WB, pick up the pieces and lets get going. We've got a few cemeteries to patrol. I'll pick up Xander, he should be recovered enough now." Xander reached out and long tendrils with barbed heads struck at the five pieces, right hand, left arm, head, and both sides of what was left of his body. Xander pulled them in and lifted them up. With the Witchblade enhancing his strength he hoisted them up onto his back.
"You leave Xander out of this," Buffy said heatedly.
"Why? He has expressed a desire to come, and I see no reason to exclude him." Xander watched the confrontation. It was odd to be present for the conversation and have Buffy not know he was there. "I'm sure he could be useful as a distraction at least."
"Xander's been through enough. You've heard about Cordelia's list, right? Well he's still at the top. And if he keeps getting knocked around, he'll get killed." She sighed. "A Slayer's life is pretty short. I don't want his to be short too."
"Well, he should learn to knock back then. And a Slayer's life is short because you keep doing things stupidly. Train other people to help you. Don't just rely on your own strength. You're good, and mystically empowered. But that isn't everything. You need to realize that, so far, you've been lucky. When you stop being lucky, you start being very dead." Syeira looked at Buffy and shook her head. "I've explained all of this before."
"And Giles said the Slayer fights alone." Buffy said stubbornly.
"Watcher propaganda! Think for yourself about this. Don't let an organization that has become so jaded as to watch young girls get killed over and over without looking for a better way of doing things get away with such a callous attitude. The longer you live, the more lives you save, not only the people around you but the next slayer as well." She checked her phone. "Time to go WB." She turned and walked off.
Xander looked at Buffy then lifted a hand to wave goodbye to her then walked off after Syeira with the robot pieces hanging off his shoulders.
Oh man, my month has been hectic. Not getting into details, but people quitting at work, training new hires, helping several people move. I haven't had the time I wanted to work on this. But it's not dead. And shouldn't be for some time.
Anyway, the long awaited origin of my Witchblade. Very different from in the comics, I also think that it will mesh well with the Buffy verse. If anyone has any questions about it, feel free to ask.
Side note: I put up a bit of a challenge in my Great Big Balls... of Yarn
ficklet collection. Having seen my style, is there any ideas people want to see me try and write? Anyway, check it out. It's a nice dump for my plot bunnies and one shots. Some stories are continuing, and will probably be made into their own stories eventually.
Well, that's all. Already working on the next chapter.