Preparing for the Second Round
$0 in profit is being made from this story. I own nothing. If I did, both BtVS and AtS would have gone differently, but then, I think most of us would say that.New City, Same Enemy
Chapter 13: Preparing for the Second Round
Modern technology, the vampire called Gregory of Arles considered, was a distinctly mixed bag. Gasoline, explosives, lighters and flamethrowers were deadly, guns were an annoyance and a painful one at that, even if they were not lethal. Some things were just nonsensical to him – his mind, in many ways, was still stuck a few centuries behind, though not all the way back in 1117, when his sire had turned him.
But, modern technology did have one area that he really loved – communications. Before, if you wanted to send a message, or call a meeting of your lieutenants, you had to send out runners, or maybe carrier pigeons. Now, you could just pull out one of those marvelous little inventions humans had cooked up and press some buttons and you had a meeting arranged in minutes.
Such the one he was having right now with his personal children, Natasha, Daniel and Franz.
“How many new recruits do we have to work with?” He asked them tersely, not turning to face any of them. He was looking out the window of the penthouse he had made his lair in, onto the lights of Chicago at night. Another great thing about modern times. No city ever slept, making it so easy to find prey even at the darkest hours of the night. His hands were clasped behind his back.
“I have seventeen fledglings, my lord.” Daniel said, “And three mortals in the process of becoming thralls, as per your command.”
“Good. Natasha, Franz, what of your efforts?”
“Twelve fledglings, and four soon to be thralls.” Natasha replied.
“Fifteen fledglings, and three soon to be thralls.” Franz replied. Daniel all but preened at his superior recruitment efforts.
“Don't be so full of yourself, Daniel.” Gregory replied, still without having turned to see Daniel's reactions. Not that he needed to see them to guess how pleased his eldest still living child might be at his success. “As I recall, it was your plan that failed to kill the former Watcher and his minions, and cost me all the previous fledglings I had to work with. You've a long way to go to redeem yourself in my eyes.” Before Natasha and Franz could get too pleased at that put-down, he added, “And your plan to rid us of that kinetomancer served only to drive her into the arms of Oracle Securities, Natasha. And, Franz, as I recall, you were the one who let her escape you a few days before we left Cleveland. All of you have shown a displeasing record for failure recently, which has left me with only one logical conclusion – all three of you are utter incompetents in the planning department. I should never have let you make your own plans for anything. I am far too indulgent a sire.” He reached into his Armani suit and removed three knives. He threw them as he turned, and each one embedded themselves into the throats of his three children.
“Next time one of you fails me, I'll be throwing stakes into your hearts, not knives into your necks.” He walked towards a table with a building plan laid out on it. “Its time to take the fight directly to Oracle Securities.” He glared at his children, whimpering in pain. “Take those out and get over here!”
“The power of secrets, Amy Madison, is in the accumulation.” Diocletian and his apprentice were in a dimly lit room, flickering candles providing all the light that they would have for this lesson. “Who has them, and who doesn't. You saw my fight with Dresden.”
“Yea.” Amy said dryly, “I saw him knock you back on your ass with a piece of jewelry. The great Diocletian, beaten by a trick so basic Willow could do it when she was in High School.”
“You mock the Red Witch Rosenberg, Amy, but it was you who came to me, because you did not have the power to defeat her on your own.”
“I came looking for power, not lectures. So far, all you've given me is the latter and not even a taste of the former.” She snapped back. “I'm starting to wonder if you're nothing but hot air.”
“If you think so, then attack me. Strike me down, if its that easy.”
“You'll just turn my spells back on me.” Amy said, shaking her head. “I'm not stupid. But if you want me to keep being your apprentice, you've gotta to teach me something, or I'll leave.” To punctuate her words, she turned and made for the exit.
Diocletian's voice took on a sudden, deep overtone. “You will obey me, Amy Madison!
” His voice thundered, and despite herself, Amy found herself frozen in place. “Your true name is mine to control, Amy Madison, and thus, you. Your will is not your own. Now, kneel.
“Go to hell, bastard.” Amy ground out through gritted teeth, even as her legs disobeyed her and she collapsed to the ground, on her knees. Half the candles in the room went out, plunging it into even deeper darkness than before.
“Good girl.” Diocletian said, as if to a pet. “Now, to punish you for your tongue.” “Amy Madison throw fire at me.
” Amy, though she knew what would happen, felt herself call up the magic and thrust out her hand. A ball of fire formed in it and flew at her teacher. Diocletian simply held out a hand, “Interruptis Ignis!
” The fire was, like Dresden's spells had been, caught in his hand. “Do not think to raise your shield, Amy Madison. You must suffer the penalty for disrespect.” He flung his gnarled, wrinkled hand out and the fireball caught Amy full force, sending her flying back, the hand she'd instinctively flung out to protect herself now a charred mass. Amy was in too much pain to even muster up the hatred she felt at the man, and at herself, for being so stupid as to end up in this situation.
“Next time, I won't let you throw your arm up, Amy Madison. You cannot comprehend just how far beneath me you are, but if you continue on the actions you are, I will show you the full force of my might.”
“You're sure this is a different enough spell that he won't be able to counter it like he did everything else?”
“It may be a fire-element spell, and it may use the same principle as your force ring – and be fired from rings, for that matter,” Bob the Skull said, “But its something you've never used before, and while you've used fire and ring storage on him, you haven't used them in combination. I don't know much about how his whole secret-thing works, but according to all the rules of magic I know, it should work. Once, anyway.”
Harry Dresden nodded as he slid the copper ring – which was really three copper rings fused together – onto his ring finger, and then put another on his middle and index fingers, replacing what had been the force rings. As long as Diocletian was the guy he could expect to go up against, those were entirely useless and obsolete. “This won't be enough to kill him. And I can't go hunting him with just one trick in the bag.”
“Maybe something not
force or fire? I know those area the areas you specialize, but there are three other elements out there, and all you've ever really used in battle is force and fire.” Bob said. Then, “Well, okay, you have Ventas Servitias
, but odds are he knows that one too. But that is the only air-element spell you've ever used in a combat situation.”
“Well, what do you suggest I do then? Make a tornado?”
“Well, no, that would be suicide trying to control that much power, but is a good premise...” Bob's voice trailed off a moment, then, “Alright, give this a try....”
“Okay, I am officially bored.” Abigail St. Pierre said, twirling her stake in one hand as she walked through one of graveyards in Chicago next to Mark. “We've been at this patrolling since the situation in Undertown stabilized, and we haven't seen a single Black Court Vampire since the first night. I'm getting the feeling they're not letting their new recruits be buried, anymore, since the patrols staked the fledglings. So why are we keeping this up? Chicago isn't a Hellmouth, where vampires run wild and sire fledglings every single night. Before this Gregory showed up, there weren't any Black Court in Chicago at all, right?”
Mark nodded. “Yea. Not since Dresden laid the smack down on Mavra, though he didn't do it all on his own. Had some backup, and ended up getting his hand fried by a Renfield with a flamethrower.”
“A Renfield?” Abigail hadn't read the book, but she had seen one of the innumerable movie adaptations of Dracula. “What the hell is a Renfield?”
“Exactly like the book has it.” Mark said. “Black Court Vampires, well, the really old ones, anyway, if they spend the time and energy on it, can psychologically break any human to be their complete and utter slave. Makes for perfect cannon fodder, though as I understand it, they don't like to make many, because keeping them all from going completely catatonic is not an easy task.”
“What did they call them before the book came out?”
Mark shrugged. “Who knows. Don't even know what the Black Court calls them, that's just what people call them these days. Its the closest fit. I mean, think about the word 'vampire'. Does it really fit the White Court? Or the Red Court, really, since they're not undead?”
Abigail nodded, “Yea, I guess.”
“But Vampire does work as a catch-all term for them. Enough for horseshoes and hand grenades, anyway.” Mark shrugged. “As for while we keep patrolling the graveyards, well, we need to earn our significantly above the American-average paychecks somehow. If the things that go bump in the night refuse to do so, we'll just have to be bored.”
The two of them continued their circuit through the graveyard, encountering a grand total of absolutely zero vampires. They got back in Mark's car – well, the black unmarked company SUV Mark used, anyway – and drove back to the Oracle Securities building. While he was at the wheel, he asked, idly, “What's it like? Having magic, I mean? How do you know you have it, how did you deal with it?”
Abigail frowned, considering. “Well, magic's not entire genetic, but for me, I mean, my mother and grandmother both had their own little talents. Mom could actually make plants healthier by singing to them, my grandmother could put up all kinds of wards – nothing else though. I was raised with it. It didn't start manifesting until I entered puberty – that's how it usually works, though not always. Took a while for me to figure out exactly what I was doing, how to control it, but my parents were pretty well plugged into the local minor practitioners, and all that, so I did have plenty of people who could help me figure things out, keep me from losing control or something.” She shrugged. “I was pretty lucky. There are plenty of people out there – some with real talent, good enough to be full wizards, even – that don't get trained, they lose control of the magic, themselves. Up until the war started, the Wardens were usually busy tracking down those kinds of people, most of the time. They tended to avoid the Cleveland Hellmouth like the plague, though. Actually, I think they avoid Hellmouths in general.”
“So what, leave all the people unlucky enough to live in Hell on Earth to their fates?” Mark asked.
“Pretty much. The White Council is an organization of people who redefine ruthless, calculating pragmatism. And they're all jackasses to boot, from what I understand. And since the Cleveland Hellmouth is actually out in Lake Eire, we don't get world-ending attempts. Well, at least as far as I know. So they don't even have to bother for the big things, in Cleveland.”
“According to Wesley, you'd be surprised just how many attempts to end the world there are. But between everyone with a stake in keeping the world intact – at least for the moment – things manage to pan out so that we're all still here.”
“Think one day we'll run out of luck?”
Mark shrugged. “I pray to God every night that doesn't happen.”
Wesley sat up and got out the bed he'd been laying in a moment before. He immediately set to redressing. As he was pulling his pants on, the person who owned the apartment the bed was in – and thus the bed itself – rolled to her other side and looked at him with a smirk on her face.
“Leaving so soon, Wes?” Lilah asked.
“Yes.” Wesley replied tersely. “I've no interest in staying in your apartment, especially not overnight.”
“Oh, come on, Wes, I don't bit.” She chuckled, “Well, not unless you ask politely.”
“This was a mistake, Lilah.”
The lawyer rolled her eyes. “We going to start with that again? I recall you saying it was a mistake when we slept together the first time, but we kept it up all through the summer and right until you left for Chicago.” She shook her head. “Whatever you may say, you can't stay away. And I certainly didn't hear you complaining while we were doing it.”
“Enjoying a thing doesn't make it necessarily a good idea.” Wesley said.
“Doesn't make it a bad one either. You'll be back.”
That...well, Wesley was not going to lie to himself. It was a mistake, a bad idea, and...he was going to do it again. Wesley wasn't one to He finished with his pants and then went back over to the bed, tangling one hand in Lilah's hair and pulling her up for a rough kiss. “I probably will.” He said, as he pulled back. He tried to step back, but she grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him down for another one. Finally they had to pull back for breath.
“Yes. You're definitely coming back.” Wesley turned from the bed, but Lilah added. “Oh, and Wesley?” He raised an eyebrow. “Don't die.” The ex-Watcher nodded and left grabbing his coat from the hook by the door as he left. Time to head back to Oracle Securities. He had Black Court to kill.Author's Note:
A brief explanation is in order, I believe, to reconcile some of the Dresdenverse and Buffyverse interpretations of Dracula and the book based on him. According to the Dresdenverse, Dracula is the son of a powerful demon thing, Vlad Drakul, whom Kincaid has worked for/does work for (It was unclear on this point, from my recollection.) Dracula joined the Black Court out of teenage rebellion, apparently. The Book Dracula was published by the White Court as a guide on how to kill Black Courtiers. In the Buffyverse, he's a generic vampire who got bonus powers from gypsies, and published the book – for the money? The hell of it? In the universe of this fic, Dracula's weird, non-Black Court powers come from his heritage of whatever Vlad is, and he was paid by the White Court to help Bram Stoker write the book, and he went along with it since his powers made him immune to the staking, etc anyway.