Sure enough, Giles had a mission for them. The Following morning, Faith drove Dawn up to Slayer Central in her old Land Rover. They arrived at the converted holiday camp and went straight to Giles’ office, Buffy being away doing something important in LA. Sitting in Giles’ office Dawn and Faith discovered they were been sent to some sort of ‘Adventure Training’ camp in South Ayrshire in southern Scotland.
There had been persistent reports of strange animals or demonic looking monsters coming out of the area for the last couple of years. It was only now, as things in Europe and the UK appeared to be going through a quiet period that they could afford to send an experienced team in to investigate. Dawn found herself swell with pride as she realised what Giles had just implied; he classed her as ‘experienced’. Which considering what she’d gone through back in Sunnydale was only as it should be.
The plan was for Faith and Dawn to go back to their flat and pack; Giles would follow them in his car and then drive them up to Newcastle. Here they would join a group who were going up to the training camp for a team building exercise. Dawn and Faith’s cover was that they were Psych students doing a study on people working under stress in unfamiliar surroundings. All being well they’d come back with the group on the following Monday afternoon. If all wasn’t well they were to call home and Giles would send reinforcements as needed.0=0=0=0
Everything went smoothly and they turned up in Newcastle with plenty of time to spare. Giles had advised them to pack lightly as they wouldn’t be any need for what he called, fripperies (Dawn had had to go and look that up to check on what it meant). Instead of ‘fripperies’ they should pack outdoor clothing, stout shoes or boots and only take a few weapons and nothing too big. At this Faith’s face fell, she’d recently bought a new sword and was dying to try it out, instead she made do with a couple of heavy knives. Dawn, on the other hand, managed to hide a small battleaxe at the bottom of her rucksack.
The coach to take them to the ‘Adventure Centre’ was a relatively small vehicle, about a twenty seater. It was dark blue with a large yellow ‘Palisade Defence’ logo on the side. There were already seven people on the coach when they climbed aboard after saying their farewells to Giles. A youngish man with ‘Harris’ written on his name badge, glared at them as they climbed aboard after they’d stowed their luggage. He presented them with their own name badges and told them to sit down.
“Just my luck,” Faith whispered as they made their way towards the vacant back seat.
“What’s that?” Dawn asked.
“Another freaking Harris,” Faith sighed dramatically then grinned back at Dawn.
“Yeah,” Dawn agreed with an answering smile, “maybe it’s a portent or something?”
“Whatever,” Faith slumped into the back seat just as the coach started to pull away.
Caught unawares by the coach moving, Dawn stumbled and fell on top of Faith.
“Hey!” Faith exclaimed as she grabbed hold of Dawn and stopped her from falling onto the floor, “Easy tiger, I know I’m hot but there’s no need to jump all over me.”
“Yeah, sure, um thanks,” Dawn found herself in close proximity to Faith’s lips just like she had the night before.
Quickly, Dawn looked away from Faith and pushed herself upright. As she did so she couldn’t help but be aware of Faith’s hands sliding over her body and just for an instant touching her skin as her hand slipped beneath her t-shirt. Sitting down next to Faith, Dawn smoothed down her shirt and tried to stop her hands from trembling. As she was trying to still her pounding heart, she noticed a twenty-something guy looking back down the coach at her and grinning; but not in a nice friendly way. It was the sort of grin that said he’d love to see Dawn and Faith get down and dirty right there on the coach right now.0=0=0=0
‘Jeez!’ What was wrong with her? Faith shook her head and looked out the window, they were already out of the centre of the city and heading towards the main road to the other side of the country. When she’d accidentally touched Dawn’s skin she’d felt something like an electric shock pass through her body. Her heart had started to race and she’d almost started to pant, she’d even felt her skin start to flush. Surely she couldn’t be going gay; she liked guys, period!
But the truth was her dating history hadn’t actually been anything to write home about lately. When she’d been living at Xander’s place she’d seriously started to think that it might be fun to revisit old conquests. But something had held her back from doing anymore than flirting with Harris. He was a nice guy yeah, but…but was he the guy for her? So she’d run hot and cold towards him and eventually started to drive him nuts until he’d asked Giles to find her a new place to live.
Glancing over at Dawn, Faith found herself thinking that Dawn was cute and if she was going to go the same route as Red and Kennie she could do worse. It was then that Faith noticed the guy staring at them from towards the front of the bus. Faith scowled at him but it didn’t appear to have any effect. Whoever this guy was, Faith couldn’t quite see his name badge, he had ‘computer geek’ written all over him along with ‘pervert’.
“Hey,” Faith eventually snarled, “you wanna look somewhere else or do ya wanna wake up in a world of pain?”
Still grinning the computer geek turned back to his computer and started to tap on the keys. The blonde American chick sitting across the aisle from him said something but Faith didn’t bother to listen in.0=0=0=0
“What are you doing?” Maggie, an attractive young American woman looked up, she’d been typing a report on her laptop; she’d noticed Steve paying a lot of attention to the two students who’d joined them at Newcastle.
“Ordering me-self a little birthday present,” Steve held up his laptop so Maggie could see the screen.
The screen showed the home page for an ‘Escort Agency’, the words ‘Escorts Confirmed’ flashed across the bottom of the screen.0=0=0=0
Having grown bored with her magazines, Dawn looked out of the window. They’d moved into an area of high hills or small mountains covered in dark brooding forests. The roads were narrow; winding along the little valleys between the hills. After a moment or two she looked around the coach, she couldn’t see much of her fellow passengers but she could see the TV screen at the front of the bus.
They appeared to be playing some sort of promotional video, Dawn couldn’t quite hear what was being said, but the screen showed lots of explosions and then a lot of attractive, blonde, young women doing various office jobs. An older man at the front of the bus was having a heated ‘discussion’ with a dark haired woman in her thirties who sat a couple of seats behind him. Once again Dawn couldn’t hear what was being said clearly; she turned to Faith to ask if she could pick out the words with her super-sensitive slayer hearing. However, Faith had curled up on the seat and was snoring softly with her mouth open.0=0=0=0
The coach was now going along a very narrow road or track; the trees grew right down to the trackside, so close that the branches would scrape along the side of the bus as it passed. The driver was singing tunelessly in some strange dialect that Dawn couldn’t quite recognise; to be honest she wasn’t sure if the guy was singing in English. ‘Steve’ the computer guy had put away his laptop and was now stuffing his face with mushrooms as he annoyed Maggie who was sitting across the aisle from him.
These two had provided Dawn with her only distraction since she’d stopped reading and realised Faith was asleep. Steve insisted that the mushrooms were ‘Magic Mushrooms’, while Maggie had offered him fifty pounds to stop eating and annoying her. The offer had no effect on Steve as he continued to stuff raw mushrooms into his mouth. Dawn smiled, she recognised the mushrooms, they were indeed ‘magic’. In about ten minutes Steve would be hallucinating and having a really bad ‘trip’.
Talking of bad trips the coach came to a sudden stop throwing everybody forward in their seats; Faith on the other hand just shifted her position slightly and continued snoring. There was a chorus of ‘What’s going on’ as people got up and walked towards the front of the bus. Dawn reached out and touched Faith’s shoulder, her eyes snapped open and she was instantly awake.
“Are we there yet?” Faith sat up and yawned, she looked around then looked at Dawn questioningly.
“I don’t think so,” Dawn stood up and tried to see what was going on at the front of the bus.
“The roads blocked,” this came from a young African guy sitting behind the older ‘in charge’ guy.
“Anyone need first aid,” a bearded man in glasses and a cagoule asked as he also stood up and looked around.
“I might do in twenty minutes,” Steve hung on to the back of his seat looking pale and sweaty.
Pushing their way down to the front of the bus Dawn and Faith saw that a tree had fallen across the road completely blocking it.
“Odd,” Dawn said quietly to Faith.
“I don’t remember hearing about any storms,” Dawn pointed out.
“So?” Faith studied the tree for a moment.
“So,” Dawn turned to Faith and whispered very quietly, “how come that tree just happened to totally fall across the road?”
Any further discussion of the falling habits of trees was interrupted by ‘older guy’ whose name appeared to be Richard arguing with the driver. The bus had been brought to a stop at a junction, one road was blocked by the tree the other was clear and according to Richard led to their destination by a slightly more circuitous route.
The driver didn’t appear keen to follow Richard’s suggestion; he kept shaking his head and speaking rapidly in his incomprehensible dialect. Richard, on the other hand, was quite convinced that the driver could easily get the coach down the other road. Dawn thought it was all very interesting but in the end it was futile; it’d become obvious to her that the two men were literally speaking different languages. For a moment the argument looked as if it would go into a more physical phase with the driver holding his fist under Richard’s nose. But the man didn’t lash out, instead he reached up and pressed a button on the ceiling. The passenger door opened with a hiss and the driver pushed past Richard and out onto the road.
“Great management skills, Dick,” mocked Harris unhelpfully, “really, really world class.”
“Gotta say,” Faith whispered in Dawn’s ear, “I think I prefer our Harris.”
Dawn bit down on her finger to stop herself from giggling out loud.0=0=0=0
Watching as the coach turned around and headed back towards civilisation, Faith rolled her eyes. The Palisade people were standing in a huddle arguing about what scale the map was, how far it was to walk back to the nearest town and generally not doing anything useful.
“It could be totally worse,” Dawn said from next to Faith’s shoulder.
“How?” Faith was about thirty seconds away from kicking some arse or even some kind of donkey-horse hybrid.
“It could be raining,” Dawn pointed out with a grin that brought a weary smile to Faith’s lips.
“Come on ya guys,” Faith pushed her way through the little crowd of office workers, and snatched the map from Dick’s fingers and handed it to Dawn. “Which way, Dawnie?”
“You-you can’t do that!” Dick blustered, “you’re just some student, I’m in ch-charge h-here!”
Dick gulped loudly as Faith turned a full strength glare in his direction.
“But-but if you have any suggestions,” Dick rapidly changed his position on the entire being in charge thing, “I’m more than willing to hear you out.”
“Dawn?” Faith mostly ignored everything Dick said after that.
“Um,” Dawn looked from the map to the surrounding countryside, “like, erm, Dick say’s, it’s along this road, can’t tell how far it is because there’s no scale on the map.”
“Told you,” Billy the African said to no one in particular.
“Okay, listen up,” Faith swung her rucksack onto her back, “Dawn and me are goin’ this way,” she indicated the side road, “ya can all do what ya want.”
Watching Faith and Dawn head off down the track, Jill (the woman who’d had the ‘discussion’ with Dick earlier) and Maggie looked at each other before following the two young women along the track.
Shrugging, Steve started walking, “I’m following the totty,” he announced and was joined a moment later by Billy.
Finally Dick and Gordon (the breaded guy who’d asked if anyone wanted first aid) followed the rest dragging their cases behind them.0=0=0=0
They hadn’t gone more than a hundred yards along the track when everyone stopped at the sound of growling from deep between the trees.
“What was that?” Jill asked nervously.
“*BURP!* Sorry,” Steve stumbled to a halt and joined everyone in staring into the woods.
Dawn gave Faith a puzzled frown and got a shrug in reply.
“Probably just a bear,” announced Gordon as if he came across bears on a daily basis.
“There aren’t any bears in Scotland,” Dawn reassured everyone, “it’s probably just, like a wolf or something.”
“Are you sure?” Maggie wanted to know as she looked nervously into the darkness under the trees.
“Totally, last time I checked,” Dawn smiled brightly, “it’s more likely to be a wolf, they released some into the wild a few years ago…there’s wallabies too.”
“That’s nice,” observed Dick.
There was another growl from under the trees.
“That sounded further away,” Billy pointed out; to Faith it’s sounded about the same distance as the first growl.
“Whatever,” Dawn hitched her rucksack back up on to her shoulders, “a lone wolf wouldn’t attack a large group like this,” she started to walk on down the track with Faith close behind.
“What if it’s not alone?” Steve asked as he scurried off after the slayer contingent.0=0=0=0
They had walked about a mile and the light was beginning to fade when they came to the old rusted wire fence. It was about eight feet high and ran off into the woods on either side of the track. Gates that had once closed across the track lay rusting and forgotten in amongst the undergrowth. Dawn, however noticed the old signs with their flaking paint but still readable message.
‘DANGER, KEEP OUT!’ they read.
“Reminds me of those old horror films,” Dawn nudged Faith’s arm and nodded to the old signs, “you know the ones where the totally unprepared party go down the spooky track to the old haunted mansion.”
“Musta missed that one,” Faith replied confidently, “come on, we must be gettin’ close.”0=0=0=0
The track started to slope downwards as they headed into a narrow valley, Steve was being towed along by Maggie who held onto a long piece of rope to stop him wandering off into the trees. He was high as a kite on magic mushrooms and had been going on about seeing weird stuff in the trees following them. Looking at Faith, Dawn raised an eyebrow.
“Nothing on the old spider sense,” Faith informed her.
“Must be coz he’s totally high,” sniffed Dawn.
“Okay everybody,” called Dick from the front of the little column, “prepare to smile.”
Everyone stopped to look at the lodge, it wasn’t what they were expecting. It was however, dark, forbidding and looked totally deserted.
“Isn’t it wonderful,” gasped Gordon.
“It’s a dump,” observed Jill.
“What do you expect?” asked Dick his temper wearing thin at this point, “The Hilton?”
“The Hilton would be good,” Jill replied unfazed.
“We’re in the country,” Dick replied thin lipped.
“What did I say about haunted mansions?” Dawn added sotto voice.
“Right now I’d sleep in a cave,” Harris picked up his bags and walked towards the lodge.
“That’s the spirit,” following Harris’ example Dick started to stride towards the lodge.0=0=0=0