Chapter Nine: The Council of Watchers
Chapter Nine: The Council of Watchers
Hecate had yet to visit. Annabeth knew she was being watched though. Her ring warmed on occasion and there was a prickling on the back of neck that was always accompanied by the scent of burned herbs. But the goddess herself hadn’t made an appearance and the tension was starting to wind Annabeth up like wire being twisted into a spring.
It also didn’t help that apparently Lady Artemis had either been interested enough, or suspicious enough, to set her Hunters loose in Los Angeles. The daughter of Athena had grown accustomed to catching sight of silver jackets out of the corner of her eye; she suspected that had they known that they were tailing a demigod, she wouldn’t even have seen that. The Hunters had become a constant guard and although Annabeth appreciated the reasoning behind their stalking, it didn’t help the pressure she could feel building in her body.
She wanted to run, run through the dark streets and rolling roads of the sprawling city of angels. She wanted to push herself to her limits and then keep going. She’d gotten the hang of cheer-leading now and though it was quite active, it wasn’t enough; she was barely sleeping at night now that her energy levels weren’t being decreased properly during the day. But she couldn’t run though. Every night after she’d done her homework and was gazing longingly out of the easily opened window and at the handily placed tree, the ring would warm or she’d see a silver-jacketed sentinel in a neighbor's’s shrub and she’d remember why she couldn’t run like her body wanted her to.
Something would have to give though. She half-suspected that the reason Hecate had stayed away was because of the Hunters and, no doubt, Lady Artemis’ presence. The Hunters wouldn’t be able or even want to stay here forever without evidence and Annabeth still…belonged to Hecate. The witch goddess wasn’t known for giving up her property voluntarily. In the mean time, something had to give and it was either going to be Annabeth or the Hunters but unlike the Hunters, Annabeth didn’t have a choice; she couldn’t give in with Hecate as her mistress.
There were days though when she wanted to give in so badly, when she wanted to go home. These days were almost always when she could smell the sharp scent of ozone that clung to Thalia or feel the aura of nature that emanated from Artemis. One day another scent had clung to Artemis, the smell of dusty scrolls mixed with treated wool, and it had taken every last bit of resolve Annabeth had to walk away from the goddess’ spot and go home.
The strain was starting to show though. She was snapping more at Hank when before she had tolerated him, her grades were dropping and Joyce Summers had started to make worried faces when she thought ‘Buffy’ wasn’t looking. Sometimes it was all she could do not to scream her frustration out loud. It hadn’t even been that long, a week or two, but already she was starting to chafe under the persona of Buffy and several trying days in a row had almost lead her to walk up to her Hunter guard of the day (the one that smelled of warm earth) and beg to be shot. The very real threat of Hecate’s punishment (the ring had become painfully hot) was all that had stopped her.
Annabeth hoped, half-guiltily and half-desperately, that the Hunters would leave her alone soon. She couldn’t take this for much longer; the guilt was eating away at her bit by bit.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, in the headquarters’ of the Council of Watchers, a young woman burst into the meeting room holding a piece of paper.
“Yes? What is it?” asked Quentin Travers’ sharply, his eyes zeroing in on the piece of paper she held.
“We’ve found her! The next Slayer! We’ve found her!” The young woman quickly gave the paper to Quentin Travers. The note read:
Buffy Anne Summers
Quentin’s hand ghosted over the letters of her name and for an instant, he felt a cold shiver run down his spine as though someone had walked over his grave. He quickly shook off the feeling and mentally labeled it as superstitious nonsense.
“Have Merrick informed at once. I want her being trained as soon as possible.” A man standing beside his seat nodded and went to the telephone on the desk in the corner. Quentin looked around the ornately decorated room and sighed, a new Slayer, a new day it seemed was dawning. He only hoped this ‘Buffy’ lasted longer than her predecessor, training them from scratch was time-consuming and time was the one thing they never had. He looked down at her name on the piece of paper in front of him again. Another thought suddenly occurred to him and he asked,
“Do you have any idea why it took so damn long to find her?”
“No Sir. But because of the significant time lapse between the death of the last Slayer and our discovery of her, we think there may have been another Slayer in between who we failed to find,” answered the young woman; looking slightly upset about the idea that they had lost a young girl in the fight against evil. Quentin Travers thought grimly that she’d learn soon.
“Two wild-cards in a row? Hmm, no matter. We have our Slayer now.” The man finished the conversation on the telephone and hung up.
“Merrick is on his way Sir. He’ll be there within the week.” Travers’ nodded. In less than a week, a young girl’s life would be changed forever. Oh well. These were the prices that must be paid if they were to continue their fight against the forces of darkness, he thought as he poured himself a glass of Scotch whiskey.
Annabeth was sitting on the steps at the front of her school. Her Hunter guard of the day was posted across the street and the ring had been warm all day; Hecate was trying to tell her something. However, Annabeth couldn’t even begin to guess what the message was about so she’d stuck to maintaining her Buffy role. Today she was waiting for a boy she didn’t care about (Tyler, a football player) to grovel for her forgiveness so she would go to the winter formal with him; a dance she didn’t even want to go to.
Out of the corner of her eye she’d spotted the Hunter looking oddly in one direction and she’d followed her gaze to see a rust-covered car with black spray-painted windows across the street. Annabeth hadn’t looked further as the ring had become painfully warm at that point, apparently Hecate didn’t want her to know about the creepy car. Before this whole debacle she would have argued and debated until she got her knowledge, like a true Athenian, but now Annabeth just couldn’t bring herself to care.
Her misery hadn’t stopped her from seeing the older guy approaching her though. He was sweating in the bright sunshine and was obviously not a native Californian but his black suit was crisp and his mustache was well groomed so he clearly was used to looking professional. He also had an air about him that reminded Annabeth of her Mother when she had visited Olympus one time during the construction work; the goddess of Wisdom had had a particularly trying day, she had even looked hassled, but Athena had still made sure that Annabeth was okay in her own worried but affectionate way. Her memories started to claim her mind again in a descending spiral of pain and guilt, and she didn’t realize that the man had stopped in front of her until he spoke.
“Buffy Summers?” She saw the Hunter’s gaze wheel around in her direction so she smiled that perfect California girl smile as she replied, ever conscious of the warm ring on her finger.
“Yeah?” she gave him a quick once-over but she couldn’t spot any concealed weapons or smell the sharp scent of chloroform (from her demigod days – that had been an interesting year at camp) so she spoke again. “Hi!” Annabeth then let her own confusion show and the smile dropped as she gave him a blank look that often adorned Buffy’s face. “What?”
The man looked less hassled but his worry had seemed to increase, Annabeth could see his hands wringing helplessly.
“I need to speak with you.” His tone was serious and the young demigod couldn’t help her small shiver. The daughter of Athena let her natural worry appear on her face as she made up a stupid answer; her mind racing with possibilities.
“You're not from Bullock's, are you? 'Cause I-I meant to pay for that lipstick.” Her eyes didn’t leave him but she could see that the Hunter across the street was torn between staying hidden and crossing over to Annabeth’s side of the road. She also saw the Hunter stop hesitating as an empousai burst out of the alleyway behind her. They quickly disappeared into the alley and Annabeth’s sharp hearing caught the faint sounds of fighting. A stray suspicion crossed her mind, didn’t empousai belong to Hecate? That idea was shelved in the back of her mind for later consideration; the guy across from her was all she needed to focus on. Unfortunately he wasn’t giving her much to work with as he didn’t even seem to twitch at her reply. Most people would react to a shoplifting confession unless their business was much more important.
“There isn't much time. You must come with me. Your destiny awaits.” His business was definitely much more important than shoplifting. Annabeth’s mind cast itself back to when her Mother had visited her in New York and a very small part of her, the part that wasn’t incredibly confused, appreciated the irony. To buy herself some more time to strategize, she shook her head, allowing her very real confusion to show on her face. Why was a mortal talking to her about destiny?
“I don’t have a destiny.” She said, shaking her head. “I’m destiny free, really.” She nodded firmly to further the impression of a dumb teenager that must be building in his mind; at this point she’d take any advantage she could get. The man spoke again and Annabeth could practically see his inner fire warring with….guilt? She recognized the look of guilt on his face, she saw it everyday when she looked in the mirror, but why would he feel guilty?
“Yes, you have. You are the Chosen One. You alone can stop them.” Her thoughts of guilt fell away as those words echoed through her mind; Chosen One. The demigod felt something stir deep within her. Although she maintained the Buffy mask, inside she started to feel anticipation building; she was going to find out her answers now.
“Who?” she asked, looking confused but feeling eager. The man appeared serious as he uttered his next sentence.
“The vampires.” Annabeth forgot about pretending and actually became Buffy for a second.
AN: Wow. An update in less than a month, shocker I know. As ever, constructive criticism and reviewers are welcome!