So. Mercedes Lackey has rescinded her refusal to permit fanfiction according to an oldish news bulletin on her web page (http://www.mercedeslackey.com/news.html
the last thing on the page) and I figured I'd re-post this old fic that I took down when there were issues.
Thanks to kudilu on livejournal for letting me know of the change in policy!
Varieties of Undeath
Tannim shifted uncomfortably in the seat of his car as he drew closer to his destination. There was magic in the air, wild, uncontrolled, dark magic to a degree he'd never before imagined. Almost as much as there was Underhill, but the feeling was different, though he couldn't pinpoint how. One thing only was certain: an earthquake wasn't the reason the town he was approaching had sunk into a huge crater, and he'd known that much by the very fact that he'd been sent to check it out. Normally there wasn't any rush on jobs like these – Ross had waited three years with no harm done him or anyone else by the delay. Others had waited equally long or far, far longer before being assisted in moving on. But this time, he was told, it was different, and he was needed immediately.
He swallowed down bile as the crater came into sight, the roiling magics in and around it wreaking havoc on his senses. He slowed the dark red Mustang to a crawl and edged forward, towards the point where the road simply vanished into the crater. There were no warnings, no construction vehicles or detour signs. There were no helicopters with news crews videotaping the site, nor scientists exploring its borders. Something wanted all of this kept very quiet, and Tannim just hoped it was on the same side he was.
Pulling over fifty yards from the crater, he parked the car and got out, rubbing his aching leg as he stretched it carefully. Driving usually didn't make it act up like this, but he hadn't exactly been hanging out, calmly enjoying the drive like he usually did. The power in this place was enough to make him stiffen even when he was deliberately trying not to, and the old scars were complaining bitterly in response.
He hitched himself up onto the quietly ticking hood of the car, leaning back against the sun-warmed windshield, letting the heat of the engine soothe his hip. He deliberately calmed himself, forcing his tense muscles to relax, a task that hadn't been this hard since the first time he'd ever done this. Then he closed his eyes, set his wards, and stood up, leaving his body behind. Looking around again, he repressed a shiver at the sight, now even more obvious as he looked with fully mystical vision. The crater was a like a volcano of power, bubbling and lashing out, roiling with strength and malevolence.
Forcing the awareness of the danger surrounding him into the back of his mind, he focused on finding the person he'd been sent for. No details this time. He didn't know how he'd died or who he was, just that he'd been instructed to default on his race, reschedule his commitments, and drive as close to non-stop across the country as possible to deal with an awakening. So here he was.
With a sigh, he began to look around. And as he looked, a glowing red point that was not angry power drew his attention, and a figure faded in around it like the Cheshire Cat around its smile. Bleach blond hair, a black leather trench coat, heavy boots, black jeans and a black T-shirt, and an unforgettable face with a scar through one pale brow and cheekbones you could cut cardboard with. Cool blue eyes looked at him with more malice than curiosity, though the aura around the figure was a relatively calm yellow-green.
“'Evening,” Tannim offered.
“Seems like. Not a good place to be about after dark,” the figure responded, his voice touched by a Cockney accent.
“I appreciate the warning,” he said, glancing around. “Doesn't look like a great place during the day either.”
“Got it's moments. Now why don't you be a good boy and go on inside – Slayer might not be around to save you if a big bad shows up.”
“Not a lot of houses around, just at the moment,” Tannim pointed out, not recognizing the Slayer reference.
The other figure's brow wrinkled in confusion, and was quickly smoothed back out. He waved a negligent hand towards the crater, and drawled, “Blind, are we? Got the whole--” he cut himself off as he turned to follow his own wave, and stared out over the crater. Which, Tannim figured, he probably didn't see.
“I'm Tannim,” the young mage stated, trying to make at least some connection before moving the conversation to where you have to go.
The other man looked back, brows raised mockingly, not commenting on whatever had made him stop a moment before. “What, the bugger with the pointy ears in those Dragonlance books the whelp reads?”
It surprised a chuckle out of the mage, and he shook his head. “No, I think that was Tanis, actually.” He waited.
Finally, the other man shrugged, and muttered, “Spike. So what are you doing here, then?”
“I was looking for you, actually.”
The aura was thrust through with orange spikes of anger, and the man's eyes narrowed. “You were, were you?”
“Have some news for you.”
“No news is good news.”
“I'm afraid that's particularly true in this case,” Tannim admitted. The other man didn't respond, though the green in his aura turned more towards yellow and the yellow more towards orange. “I regret to inform you that you're dead,” he said formally.
The man stared at him for a moment, then he let out a bark of laughter, his aura fading back into safer, cooler colors. “That's your big news, is it, mate? The whelp send you? Seems about his sense of humor.”
Tannim blinked. “I'm afraid it's not a joke. You really are dead.”
“Well, yeah, but it's not like it's news
, now is it?” Spike replied calmly, taking another long drag on his cigarette.
Wishing for the presence of his car so he could slump back against it, Tannim stared at the other man. “You knew you were dead?”
“'S the kinda thing you notice. Besides, I have been for more'n a century, haven't I?”
Tannim's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Huh. So you remember lighting up that cigarette?” he asked, wondering if he'd been sent on a wild goose chase. Or if, gods forbid, there was another ghost around.
Spike stared at the cigarette between his fingers blankly, as though he'd never seen it before. “What kind of stupid question is that?” he demanded contentiously, starting to go yellow again. “I light fags all the time.”
More confident that this was, indeed, the one he was here for, Tannim nodded. “But do you remember lighting this
particular one? Do you remember coming out here for a walk?”
“I don't go for bloody walks!” he snapped, orange flashing through the yellow of his aura.
“And yet you're here.”
“Yeah – well – just what are you getting at here?” His aura was overwhelmingly deep orange now, with occasional flashes of cherry-red.
“Newly dead ghosts often aren't aware of how they reached the place they are, or why they're doing what they're doing. Usually just hanging around, like you.”
And the man's aura exploded into bright red, behind which his eyes were bright yellow and his face twisted into something malformed and ridged. “Are you bleedin' mad? I'm a vampire, not some bloody ghost!”
Tannim stared at the vampire in abject shock. “This is impossible,” he stated. “A vampire doesn't have a soul – he can't turn into a ghost when he finishes dying.”
“Are you bloody well tellin’ me I got dusted?” Spike howled, the angry red shooting out of his mouth and spreading slightly as it hit Tannim's shields, buffering them, but not more than they could hold for a while.
Okay, so this is why it was so damn urgent he respond immediately, but they couldn't have damn well given him a little bit of warning? And how was this possible? “I'm afraid so,” he said, keeping his body language carefully non-confrontational. “But I don't understand how this is even possible without a soul.”
“I've had my soul for upwards of a year – bought it off a demon—sort of—but that's not the bleedin' point
,” he shouted, cigarette dropping from his fingers and vanishing before it hit the ground. “You're saying I'm not just undead, I'm dead
“Well, no, ghosts are counted as undead,” Tannim replied distractedly, still stuck on the other part of the vampire's statement. “You bought
your soul back?”
“Try to keep to the bleedin' point, mate! Dead, undead, yeah, whatever, semantics, but I'm all – I'm all incorporeal and shit?” His aura was still as dangerously crimson, but his face smoothed out, his eyes fading back to a cold, angry blue.
“Yes,” the mage agreed, back on solid ground. He'd never seen a ghost's aura stay so intensely furious for so long without lashing out and attacking. But then, he'd never seen the ghost of a vampire before. “You can learn to affect the physical world, but it's a slow process.”
“But what am I doin' here? If I got dusted, shouldn't that be it? What the hell's this?”
“Usually it means you still have things to do. Tasks left unfinished. Sometimes someone still wants you for something.”
“Bloody hell, it's the Powers!” he exclaimed. “Aren't they done yet? Christ, I died for them, apparently – I did die for them, didn't I? How did I die?” He was still angry, but it was slowly simmering down to a dark orange, and Tannim let himself relax very slightly.
“I'm not sure, actually. But I know you took the town with you – or possibly it took you with it.”
The vampire looked towards the crater again, and this time grinned. “Now how'd I miss the crater the size of a town sittin' there? I did that, huh? Haven't lost my touch,” he murmured, taking a drag on the cigarette that was somehow back in his hand.
“Do you remember anything about it?”
“Imbalance between good and evil, what with the Slayer line getting forked. First evil trying to get all the Slayers. Peaches tryin' to go all noble, and the Slayer sending him back to L.A. with 'is tail between his legs, the ponce.” His eyes glinted with humor, then darkened. He fell silent for a long moment, brows slowly lowering. “Fuck,” he finally muttered. “Gave my life for the Slayer, didn't I. And she said she loved me, there at the end. Which she doesn't, but— God, it was good to hear anyway. And I saved the world. Don't care much about the world if I can't enjoy it, but I'm glad I saved her and the Bit. Okay with saving Red, too, though I'd be just fine with taking the Whelp down with me. So, right then. I did everything I have to do, so it's the bleedin' Powers aren't done with me – the hell do I do now?”
“Well, do you know anyone who can communicate with these Powers? Find out what they need from you?”
The vampire's aura had faded back to yellow-green, but the expression he turned on Tannim was pure dismay. “Bloody hell. I gotta go to Peaches.”
The mage blinked. “That's the one who went to L.A.?”
“Yeah, my bloody grandsire. Poof who's got this whole broody complex, doomed to live out his eternal unlife on sheep blood and angst 'cuz he got cursed with a soul. He's got a link to the Powers. Champion, and all.”
“How many vampires have souls?” Tannim asked, startled by the mention of another when he hadn't ever heard it was possible for even one.
“Just the two of us.” Spike's face twisted into a mask of horror. “An' if I ever refer to Peaches an' me as 'the two of us' again, just stake me – I'd rather be dead.”
Tannim chuckled. “Well, staking you won't really work now – the whole incorporeality thing. And I can give you a lift in to L.A. if you want.”
“Guess I'd best take you up on that, since I don't see the ghost of my bike around,” the vampire agreed with a long-suffering sigh. Then a slow evil grin spread across his face. “And there's that. Might have some fun with the poof after all. There's somethin' to be said for being able to torment him without bein' afraid he'll stake me. Might be fun hanging out there for a bit, haunting him.”
Tannim shook his head in amusement and led the way back to his car, slipping back into his body and lowering the protections so the ghost could get in. “Stay away from the tapes,” he stated, pointing to a box. “Ghosts tend to wreak havoc on anything magnetic.”
“Good to know,” Spike replied with a dark smile. It brightened and he added, “Got any Sex Pistols?”