After an interval of several minutes, to allow everyone involved (i.e., Faith) to calm down, the dialogue resumed, albeit at a less – demonstrative – level of discussion. That is, if pacing like a caged lioness could be considered an improvement
"A former associate of mine contacted me four days ago, and informed me of your existence, Alexander," Gil said, looking as though he were completely indifferent to the focused attention all five of his listeners were giving his every word, "and, once she had made sure I knew of your current location and the reason for which she was calling, she apologized profusely for not being able to inform me as to your existence at some earlier point in your life.
"Angela has been blessed – or cursed, depending upon one's viewpoint – with the ability to see both the future and the past in her dreams, although her abilities are erratic and not subject in any way to her conscious control," he explained further. "And since she has proven herself to me on a great many occasions in the past, I took her at her word when she informed me about you and your existence.
"Despite what you might think when considering my own appearance, I am a good bit older than I would appear," Gil went on, "and I have fathered a great many children, of whom none, aside from you, Alexander, have managed to survive to this time."
The momentary expression the Scoobies thought they saw flit across the other man's face gave anyone seeing it the tiniest glimpse of a yawning chasm of pain and loss, and Gil immediately shook his head, as though to clear away the memories that had been stirred up, before continuing on with his explanation.
"In any event, my friend told me that in her dreams, she had seen you and a number of other people in several pitched battles against what she described as demons," Gil said, noting the way all of his listeners reflexively tensed the slightest bit at his words. "Angela said she saw, to use her own words, several groups of young people – primarily young women – using medieval weapons to battle grotesque and misshapen monsters who resembled creatures described in the myths and legends which have been handed down over the ages since man first lived in caves.
"And while Angela believes that the images she saw in her dream were metaphorical in meaning, as various instances of the visions she has received in the past have proven to be," Gil continued, "after hearing her descriptions of the creatures she saw, I am of the belief that what she saw was real, and that you and your companions here are aware of the darker side of existence which most people prefer to ignore exists."
"And why would you think that, Mr. Masters?" the redhead seated next to his son – her name was Willow Rosenberg, Gil reminded himself – asked, voicing the question he could see all of the children here wanted to pose.
"Because I can see that all of you have been touched by Fate, or Providence, or Destiny, or whatever name you would prefer to use," was the answer he provided.
"Your aura, Lady Willow, drained and faded though it currently is, tells me that you possess a depth of mystical ability that has not seen in this world more than once or twice in the past three thousand years," he said as he considered the redhead with an unblinking gaze. The man found the expression of near-overwhelming sorrow and loss which he saw appear on the redhead's face at his words a bit puzzling, but he shrugged mentally and continued on with his evaluation of his son's companions.
"And you, Lady Buffy and Lady Faith," Gil went on as he turned to address the blonde and the brunette with the same intense and piercing look as he'd just given their friend, "are both clearly warriors who, I am confident, would easily match or exceed any others whom I have met in any of the battles in which I have participated over the course of my life.
"And you, my Lady Dawn," he said as he then turned to focus his attention on the young woman in question, "are an enigma the like of which I have never seen before.
"Despite your seeming youth, you also appear to be older than even one such as I am," Gil noted, ignoring the obvious tension his words created in everyone present as he gazed a moment longer at the young woman before shrugging and adding, "But that is a puzzle I will leave to others better suited to comprehending such matters."
Finally turning to lock his gaze on Xander, Gil paused for a moment before speaking, as though he were taking note of every atom and molecule that comprised the youth sitting across from him.
"And your aura is one that, aside from myself, I have seen possessed by only two other people in the past, Alexander," he said quietly, his voice so low that his audience almost had to strain to hear. "And those two people were my brothers, Ivar and Aram.
"I deeply regret that I am required to be the one to tell you this, my son," Gil apologized, his words surprising his audience, "because I believe that, in all likelihood – it means that you, too, will spend the rest of what will most likely be a very long life mired in strife and battle against the forces of darkness, much as I and my brothers have been cursed to do."
Holding up his hand to quell all of the questions he knew his words would trigger, Gil said, "Please, allow me to explain – by the best reckoning I have been able to make, I was born in approximately 3270 B.C., by our current calendar, in the region now called Mesopotamia, to a minor tribe whose name would not be recognized by any scholar today, regardless of how erudite they might be.
"I emerged victorious from my first battle at the age of eleven, by a combination of both skill and a great deal of luck," Gil then went on as he began recounting his own story, supplementing it with those snippets he knew of his brothers' histories as the occasion warranted, describing for his listeners the world which had evolved over the course of the past five thousand years. “And so, here we all are today...”
"So what you're saying is that Xand here is gonna be like you and your brothers, and pretty much live forever, huh?" Faith asked, once Gil had finally finished his story.
"Not necessarily," their guest – and Xander's putative father – shook his head in disagreement.
"What I am saying," he clarified his words, "is that, barring death by violence, Alexander has the potential to live for a very long time, since he will most likely be able to recover from virtually any type of injury.
Indicating the eyepatch the youth sitting opposite him was currently wearing, Gil said, "I have suffered similar injuries to that one any number of times in the past, and I have always recovered from them and regained my vision in both my eyes. While I cannot guarantee that you will do so, too, I strongly believe that you will – although my belief is based primarily on the similarity of your aura to that of my own and my brothers'.
"Tell me, Alexander, have you ever suffered and then recovered from an injury which you would have normally expected to have killed you?" Gil asked curiously. "And I would also venture that you also generally recover from injuries faster than one would normally expect, correct?"
"Oh, oh, Xander! That time in the Magic Box, when Olaf hit you with his troll-god warhammer – that's definitely the sort of thing Mister Masters is referring to," Willow interjected with wide-eyed excitement, as she reminded the group present of their one-time confrontation with Anya's ex-husband/transformed troll god. "When I thought about it just now, I realized that you really should have been killed back then, not just bruised and beaten up!"
"Well, yeah, I guess you've got a point there, Willow," Xander conceded with a thoughtful frown as he considered his history of injuries incurred in the course of the Slaying he'd done over the past seven years.
"And as far as your other question about healing fast is concerned," Xander said in response to Gil's inquiry, "back in junior year, I had a broken arm that healed up in just a couple weeks instead of the month and a half the doctors told me to expect.
Adding in the various reminders of injuries which Buffy, Dawn and Faith also noted Xander had suffered over the course of life in Sunnydale, when the group considered the total number of injuries involved, everyone present was eventually forced to concede that the male Scooby almost certainly *had* to possess some form of augmented healing factor, given the extensive catalog of injuries he'd suffered over the course of their careers. The concussions alone should have killed him by now.
"So, uh, Gil, what exactly can you tell us about these visions this friend of yours had?" Xander asked a few minutes later, trying to shift the subject of discussion as he and the others tried to adjust to the startling – and more than a little disturbing – revelations they'd received from their visitor. "Any information about where these battles she saw might be, or when they'll be happening?
"'Cause anything you could tell us about them to help us get prepared would be majorly helpful."
"As far as when the battles might occur, Angela said she hadn't received any specific indications of time, just that she had an overwhelming feeling that the events she'd witnessed were of tremendous significance," Gil replied.
"And as far as a location is concerned," he went on, "she said that she could hear a voice proclaiming that whosoever claimed victory in the Dale of the Sun would establish a regime which would hold sway over their opponents for the next dozen generations, at which time the stars would mandate their final confrontation."
"The Dale of the Sun?" Dawn repeated with a frown as she glanced around at her fellow Scoobies and saw the looks of surprise, anger, annoyance and resentment on their faces which matched hers.
"Well, that's really freakin' great news," Faith declared sarcastically as she shook her head in disgust and disappointment.
"Does anyone else here think this sounds like another one of the Powers That Be Pussies' usual screw-ups?" the brunette asked as she looked around at her fellow champions, a frown of displeasure marring her lovely features. "Sending in reinforcements to help, but them showing up just a little too late to do anything?"
"Yeah, that sure sounds exactly like the way the PTB do things," Buffy agreed, a grim frown on her face. "Too little, too late.
"And even that much is only when they bother to do anything at all," she noted sardonically.
"Sometimes, I think we'd be a lot better off if they just ignored us completely."
"Gotta agree with ya on that, B," Faith nodded, her answer prompting a flood of agreement from the remaining members of the group.
"It'd have been nice if just once, they'd have told us to invest in some particular stock, or let us know who was gonna win at Preakness, or what the next set of Powerball numbers was gonna be," the brunette rumbled. "Maybe that way, we wouldn't have to be sponging off of Fang while Jeeves is off in England, trying to locate the Council's funds."
"Excuse me, but do you mean that you need money to obtain proper housing and supplies for yourselves?" Gil politely broke into the conversation, a look of concern on his face.
"Only if we don't want to have the newbie Slayers end up out on the streets, starving and homeless, Gil," Xander replied, his mouth twisted with frustration and anger.
"Sunnydale was, quite literally, collapsing into a crater behind us as we were getting the hell out of town," he then explained. "The only things we have with us is what we had stored on the bus."
"Well then, let me at least help you out with some money for clothing and shelter, my son. For yourself and the girls you have with you," Gil suggested, his face utterly calm and composed
Xander opened his mouth to say thanks but no thanks, but quickly shut it again after a Look from Dawn. Everyone then waited for a moment to hear how much cash Gil was going to offer, the expected range of the offer stretching from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars – depending on one’s level of cynicism.
"Will a quarter-million dollars to start be sufficient, Alexander?"