The Battle of the Red Moon, Part II
No, I don't own it.A/N:
I will not deny that this chapter is more than a bit...rushed, in the end – in that I skipped over some stuff that I normally wouldn't skip over. But this chapter has been sitting her on my hard-drive for a while now, and I need to finish this up, so I just did what was necessary to finish up Book I of the story. I'm sorry, but I figured you'd want the chapter after the what, month, since the last one has been up?
Thanks to Starway Man, my BetaThe Prophecies Cycle
Book I: The Red Moon Rises
Chapter 21: The Battle of the Red Moon, Part IIThe Night of the Red MoonThe Front Gates of Castle Maestro
Lordship of Sunnydale
“So, what exactly is the plan here?” Xander asked as they approached the castle gates. If the structure had once had side doors of any kind, they were long since rendered useless, walled up and inaccessible. Which left the only usable means of entrance the front gates. “I mean, since we're taking the obvious way in - that they're sure to have guarded.”
“I wish we didn't have to have a plan, just for once.” Gunn muttered, not really serious. “I mean, really, what do we gotta do? Go in, stick together, kill the vampires, save the world. Easy.” He unleashed a mock suffering-sigh. “Just once, I'd like to be able to just ditch having a plan.”
Wesley chuckled, just a little. But then he nodded in agreement with Xander. “I suppose some kind of stealthy approach would be appropriate. Buffy,” His mouth ticked up at her ridiculous name, “and Faith had best go in first, take out any undead guards and-”
“Actually, I have a better idea.” Angel interrupted. “How about we don't go in through the front door at all?”
“Well, I'd love to, Angelus.” Wesley drawled. “But I don't see any other options for entrance. Do you?”
“As a matter of fact, yes. And it's Angel nowadays, Watcher.” Angel sent the Britillian a look of annoyance as he corrected Wes on the name he now used.
Without any further explanation, he leapt into the air, grabbing with both hands onto the edge of a windowsill, only a curtain between him and entrance to the castle. It took some doing, but the vampire managed to pull himself inside, tearing the curtain away and tossing down one end of a rope. Buffy grabbed onto the rope with one hand, and then smirked at Wesley. Between Angel's pulling and her climbing, she was inside quickly. Back down went the rope.
“Well, you have to give credit where it's due. And Angel knows how to pull stuff like this off with style.” Faith said, smiling, and grabbing onto the rope. She turned back to face Wesley, who raised an eyebrow at her.
“I take it you three have done this sort of thing before.”
“We get around on the Slaying circuit.” Faith agreed, before starting to climb up.
To the rear, Lady Cordelia Chase unconsciously moved closer to Xander, awaiting her turn to enter the vampire-infested castle. And it wasn't because she was having second thoughts about this...no, of course not. This was something that had to be done, if for no other reason to save the world and her own life from a monster who would otherwise be unleashed tonight and cause the end of human civilization. And she wasn't moving closer to Harris - in a sense, the last remaining House Chase guard - because of the fact she'd discovered Angel was some sort of...friendly vampire, as insane as that sounded, and she intended to keep at least one human body between him and herself just in case.
No, it was because for a few moments just now in the forest...Xander had somehow managed to make her forget that he was a lowly ex-guard, and that she was a Lady of noble blood. Just for those few moments...it was as if he was just a man, and she was just a woman, and for the first time in her life - she had actually seen Harris for who he was, and not just what he was. Or at least, had been. It was rather hard to tell now what he was, since the collapse of the Lordship...
No, actually, that wasn't true. Cordelia knew what her former bodyguard was - a man determined to kill the vampire that was his former best friend, that unclean thing
that had wanted to rape and turn her when the castle had been invaded.I pray to any benevolent gods that may be listening, please don't let us run into that Jesse vampire tonight,
Cordelia thought to herself, as Xander glanced her way for a moment. And that Xander and I survive the upcoming battle...
“Are you having second thoughts about this, Cordelia?” he asked. “If so, this is your last opportunity to-”
“No. I said I would see this through, and I will do so. Do you dare doubt my word?” Lady Chase sent him her fiercest glare. One that, much to her annoyance, didn't seem to affect Harris in the slightest.
“No. My Lady.” Xander said with small smirk that she suddenly found truly detestable. “Would you care to go first?”
“Of course. Why do you ask?”
“Why do you think? For the pleasure of standing underneath and watching your rear as you climb up that rope, of course.”
“Oooh!” Cordelia seethed angrily, infuriated that this...this commoner
actually had the nerve to talk to her like that. It also angered her that she couldn't simply slap him like he deserved, and then stalk off in righteous anger.
Having witnessed the verbal exchange, Fred whispered to her husband, “Is it just me, or are those two acting like a married couple all of a sudden?”
“Naw, it's not just you, Fred. Come on, it's your turn.” Gunn nudged his better half, as Wesley and Lilah had already climbed up and into the castle by this point. Fred quickly got moving, before it was Charles's turn to use the rope to enter the vampire stronghold. Once he was inside, Cordelia - still glaring daggers at Xander for his perceived lack of respect - gritted her teeth, grabbed hold of the rope and started to climb.May all the pestilent gods damn you,
Harris, Cordelia thought to herself, trying not to imagine the perverted expression on Xander's face right now. Even though, had she looked, there was not the slightest trace of lecherous amusement on the ex-guard's face; as he was too busy thinking of what he would have to do in regards to Jesse, should they run into the vampire this night.
Not far away, the man named Julian Parthenos...who had recently witnessed the death of his so-called employer, Luke...congratulated himself on a job well done. And, content that his record of everyone that dared to hire him ended up dead was still intact, the mercenary slipped off into the darkness...Castle Maestro Dungeons
Lordship of Sunnydale
Darla turned around as Drusilla erupted into a loud exclamation of happiness. “Daddy's here! Daddy's here!” She clapped like a little girl at the theater, but then she started to hiss angrily. “No, no, no!” She whined. “It's the Angel-beast!” Then she smiled. “But he's brought friends! I must tell Miss Edith. It's time to have a tea party!” She raced out of the room, looking for that detestable doll of hers.And Spike loves her? Great Amarra, how he puts up with her insanity I'll never know.
Darla grabbed one of the minion vampires in the room. Jesiah, or whatever his name was. “Take a team to the front door, and find Angelus and whoever he's brought with him. Kill all his companions, but bring Angelus to me, intact. Harm him if you must, but if he's slain - I'll personally make you wish the Slayers had ended you!”
“Yes-Yes milady!” Vamp Jesse hurried out of the room to find other vampires he could draft into this effort. Darla paid him no more mind. Instead, she turned to another minion. “We must start the ritual. It's time to begin the bloodletting. Bring the human sacrifices to the appropriate area - now.”
“Your will is my command, Darla.” The vampire said, bowing his head. “Your action will ensure the rise of the Master-”
“Why else am I here, or any of us for that matter, you fool? Now stop wasting my time with flattery, and do as I say!” Darla snarled angrily.Castle Maestro
Lordship of Sunnydale
“So, Lilah.” Wesley said, once they were up inside the castle, Gunn, Cordelia and Xander still on the ground as Angel pulled Fred up. “You said you had valuable information about all this, way back when you first joined up with us. You've refused to tell us anything before now, but given that we're up against the wall, as it were, it's time for you to start talking.” He leveled his crossbow at her stomach. “Or else this will get very nasty for you, very quickly.”
“You don't need to threaten it out of me.” Lilah said. “After all, lover, I'm on your side in all this. I happen to like this world as it is. Kind of human after all, no?”
“I have my doubts about that.” Wesley replied cooly. “And we are not
lovers. Now talk!”
Lilah rolled her eyes and gently pushed the crossbow so it wasn't pointing directly at her. “Remember the relevant Prophecy of the Dark Oracle that set us on this path? The reason Rupert Giles originally sent you here in the first place?”
“Of course.” Wesley replied.
“Remind me, how does it go again?”
Wes started quoting: “When the moon hangs red in the sky/And the birds that once dwelled in the air no longer fly/He who was sealed away so long, shall once more awaken./And his fractured followers, no longer shall be they be fallen/First they shall make the blood of Sineya's Brood flow like wine/And thus the Brood of Aurelius shall cleanse the Earth of the kine.” He finished the recitation. “But what does that have to do with your information?”
“Just this: The Dark Oracle, in the seven of his twenty-three prophecies that have been fulfilled thus far, has never been wrong. Not once. Every prophecy of his has inevitably come to pass.”
“So what?” Faith demanded. “Are you saying we're already doomed? If so, it would have been useful to know that before now. Except, of course, that prophecy is bullshit. We're the ones who make the choices here, not some dead seer.”
Fred clambered into the room. “I have to agree. Screw Destiny has been an ongoing philosophy of mine.”
“Destiny is one thing. But prophecy is prophecy. It's not something you can just ignore.” Wesley disagreed. “But neither does prophecy set the future in stone.”
“Actually it does.” Lilah disagreed. “But the great thing about prophecy is that it's always so...vague. You never know what it's actually saying, until after the fact.”
“That prophecy seems pretty clear to me.” Angel replied. “The Master will rise, his followers will return, they'll kill all the Slayers and then cleanse the earth of humanity. He's not being all that vague.”
“Ah, but you heard dear Wesley recite the prophecy just now - and where does it say that the Master will cleanse the earth of humanity? It says his brood will cleanse the earth of the 'kine'. And as any scholar can tell you, 'kine'...it's simply an ancient word for 'cattle'. Some vampire religions use the word in relation to humans, and for obvious reasons, of course - but technically speaking, it doesn't necessarily
“So, what, the Master is going to just kill all the cows in the world?” Angel asked scornfully. He could see now why the former Watcher had pointed a crossbow at this woman, and to his mind it was amazing how Wesley hadn't killed her yet.
Lilah rolled her eyes at the vampire. “Did I say that? Certainly, if we don't stop the ritual to free him, it's entirely possible that he will kill all the humans in this world as the fulfillment of the prophecy. But that's exactly what I'm trying to make you fools understand; words have meaning
. Prophecies say what they say, and that's it. They're constructed statements of what will happen. When you get right down to it, all the Dark Oracle is saying is that when this, that and the other thing happen, this whole other thing will happen. The prophecy will be fulfilled, no matter how you slice it. Don't you see? The way to get around a prophecy, to prevent it from ending the way you don't want it to, is to end it prematurely! Fulfill its conditions your own way, and you've closed the door on its effectiveness, ending its influence on the world. That's
the only way you're going to prevent the end of the world and the rising of the Master. The Red Moon is in the sky, and there certainly aren't any damn birds in the sky. His splintered followers have gathered here. The Master is awake, ready for his release. So what's left?”
“The blood of Sineya's brood flowing like wine, and the brood of Aurelius cleansing the Earth of the kine.” Angel supplied. “But we're not exactly going to be able to kill every damn cow in the world.” As he said that, he finished pulling Cordelia into the castle, then rolled the rope and put it back into his pack.
“The blood of Sineya's brood is already flowing.” Lilah pointed out the window towards the battle raging in the open plain below the castle. “You can't deny that the Slayers haven't been injured, or that some of them are dead and dying.” She pulled a wooden goblet from her bag. “Now all you need to do is making their blood flow like wine. And as for cleansing the earth of the kine, once again, you're thinking far too literally. You don't have to be literal. 'The Earth' could mean, if you want to stretch it, just a patch of dirt. And since we're talking about kine, all it has to be is a single cow, or cow-like animal, like an ox. And how much do you want to bet they don't have a cow or an ox here, for blood?”
“That's a lot we're risking on an ox or cow being here.” Angel frowned.
“True, but at this point, it's all we have. Though I suppose we could also kill a person, but since I'm quite sure you'd all vote for killing me, I vote for cow, hm? The point is that if we want to prevent the Master's release, we have to defeat the prophecy.” Lilah said passionately.
“Well, then, we'll keep our eyes open for a cow.” Angel replied. “In the meantime, let's get moving.”Castle Maestro Front Gates
Lordship of Sunnydale
“There's been no sign of them. I'm telling you, they didn't come in through the main gates.”
“Well, how else did they come in!?” Jesse demanded. “Look, I'm not going back to Darla empty-handed! So either you tell me where the hell they are, or I'll bring her your dust!”
“You miserable little worm!” The vampire lunged at his nominal leader, weeks of subsistence feeding on animal blood getting to him. Wrapping his hands around Jesse's neck, he squeezed; for all the good that would do. “You just want all that human blood for yourself!” He punched his pinned target in the face.
“Oh, please, don't fight each other.” A voice from further inside the castle offered. All five vampires watching, and the two fighting turned to see Angel step out of the shadows, flanked by two woman, one blonde and one brunette. The ensouled vampire donned his game face with a snarl. “After all, that's my job.”
Six crossbow bolts flew out at the vampires from near Angel, Buffy and Faith. Gunn, Fred, Wesley, Lilah, Xander and Cordelia all watched as their bolts went for the vampires. To no one's surprise, Cordelia's bolt sailed aside harmlessly, missing the vampires entirely. Wesley's and Gunn's connected right in the heart, while Fred, Lilah and Xander failed to score direct hits, but achieved varying level of damage where they hit elsewhere, the undead's instinctive dodging preventing one-hit kills.
Just as the vampires started to react, the Slayers were on them, Buffy driving a stake into one of the uninjured ones, Faith swinging her sword through the already injured leg of another. Xander, sensibly staying back, just reloaded his crossbow. Cordelia tried to follow his lead, but fumbled with the weapon, dropping the bolt. Xander bit his tongue a moment, then picked up the bolt and handed it back to Cordelia.
“How the hell do I do it?” She demanded as the fight continued on, Angel having joined in, only three vampires left. In all the excitement, Cordelia had failed to notice that one of them was Jesse - who had spotted her by now, and couldn't believe his good fortune.
“Figure it out for yourself, Cordelia.” Xander replied cooly, stupidly letting himself be distracted and failing to spot Jesse heading towards them.
“Xander!” She looked at him. “Please! Help!?”
Xander pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment. “Better.” He pointed to part of her crossbow. “You need to pull this part here back. Exactly, like that.” He added, as Cordelia did as instructed. It made sense to her after that, she managed to get the crossbow loaded without further instruction. “Right, now - oh, gods!!”
Xander looked up, too late, to see Vamp Jesse bearing down upon them. Even as he lifted his crossbow, Harris knew he was doomed. But then, Cordelia's weapon unleashed a loud 'twang!' - and with a look of disbelief on his face, the fledgling vampire exploded into dust.
“I did it!” She looked at Xander oddly. “I did it?”
“That you did, my Lady. Well done.” Xander nodded his head respectfully at the noblewoman, and meaning it for maybe the first time in his life. He was somewhat regretful that he hadn't done the deed himself, laid Jesse to rest by his own hand, but then in a time of war - one must enjoy one's victories however one can.
Of course, by then, the fight was done.
“That's seven down. How many more do you think Darla's got between here and her?” Faith asked, looking around.
“No clue.” Wesley replied. “But I'm about to commit a cardinal sin in our line of work, and suggest that we split up. We have two, arguably three targets we need to find and eliminate: Darla, the Aurelian priests working on the ritual, and a cow or ox so as to defeat the prophecy. There's no good way to split us into three groups, but two should be able to work. Angel, you're going to have to be in charge of finding the cow.”
“What the - who died and put you
in charge, Britillian?” Angel shot back. “Why should I be the one to find the damned cow? I don't even believe
all that crap, anyway!”
“Because the prophecy says that the 'Brood of Aurelius' will be the one to cleanse the earth of the kine. The only one here that is of the line of Aurelius would be you, by way of Darla and the Master. So you have to be the one to find the cow, because you have to be the one to kill it. Find a cow, bring it to the courtyard and kill it over a patch of bare dirt.”
“This is insane! I'm not going to waste my time dealing with manipulating prophecy. Not while Darla's around!” Angel shot back stubbornly.
Buffy looked at the vampire as he spoke. A woman knows her man, and even if she and Angel had never been physically intimate, the blonde Slayer nonetheless knew that Angel was acting out of character right now. He was uncharacteristic in his aggressiveness, his belligerence. Darla was getting to him...he wanted her destroyed. This wasn't about anything else for him...
“Angel.” Buffy put a hand on his arm softly. “We don't have time to argue about this. Maybe the prophecy doesn't need to be manipulated that way, but do you really
want to gamble the fate of the world on that? Because I don't. We find the cow, we kill it, and then we join up with them going after Darla and her minions. The priests themselves don't matter much, as long as Darla and Luke are gone. We can get rid of them later.”
“You know Darla, Angel. Where would she most likely be, all things considered?” Wesley inquired. Then, as if suddenly having the idea, he added: “Tell you what. I swear I will do my level best to ensure that Darla is intact and 'alive' as it were, by the time that you get there. Thus, if it is at all possible, you can be the one to end her.”
“It won't be as easy you think to simply hold her off, without her killing you.” Angel retorted.
“No, probably not.” Wesley agreed. “But the promise has to count for something, at least. And do you really I care whether or not I live to see the coming dawn?”
“Not really.” Angel muttered, then added, “All right. Since Darla will have guessed we're coming, she'll know this is gonna be a fight to the death, so she'll want the most defensible place possible. In this case, that'll be somewhere down in the castle's dungeons. The far end of them, too. You're going to need to run a gauntlet of her minions to get to her.”
“Who said anything about running through them?” Gunn, having only moments before exchanged the crossbow for his axe, asked, swinging the weapon around a bit to add a menacing flourish to his words. “I vote we just dust 'em all along the way. Unless they come at us fifty at a time or something like that, we can take 'em.”
“It would probably be best to at least try getting rid of all the vampires in our way.” Fred agreed. “The last thing we want is to be dealing with Darla and her personal guard, while also trying to hold off however many vampires we didn't kill coming at from the rear.”
“Just as long as we don't delay too long.” Wesley looked at her and then Lilah, who nodded. “Time is not on our side, remember? Darla is and must be our priority.”
“Fine. Alright.” Buffy said, taking charge. She nodded to Faith. “You go with them. Since this was your idea, Lilah, you'll be coming with Angel and me.”
After a moment, Faith nodded. She knew that Buffy's logic was right. They'd need a Slayer for the team that was moving into the dungeons, and Buffy had to stay behind and keep Angel in line. She was the only one who could do it. Just like he's the only one who can keep her in line. They're good for each other like that, I suppose. Too bad it can't ever be anything more than that.
Lilah didn't bother to suppress her distaste at going with the Slayer and the ensouled vampire. Not so much because she preferred going with the others into the dungeons – dangerous work, that, and Lilah quite liked being among the living, thank you – but because the only thing worse than a self-righteous Slayer...and they we all self-righteous, at the end of the day. Daughters of Sineya, indeed. A goddess isn't your mommy, little girl...
was a self-righteous ensouled vampire on a redemption kick. It was hardly an exact science to come to that conclusion, but still.
Lilah walked over to the slayer and the vampire. “All right, let's find us a cow.”
“And where would you suggest we go about finding one?” Angel asked, looking to the side. Somehow, the look managed to achieve the visual effect of rolling one's eyes, without actually making such an action.
“Oh, I don't know.” Lilah said. Then she stroked her chin, saying musingly, “I suppose – and this is just a shot in the dark, here – we might want to check the castle's stables, first? Just a thought.”Castle Maestro Dungeon
Lordship of Sunnydale
Not all that long afterwards, after fighting their way past the undead and the Slayer army-slash-vampire army battle outside was more or less over, the strike team (despite all the odds) managed to make down to the dungeons to confront their primary target.
“You're too late.” Darla said to them softly, a bemused look on her face as she wiped blood from her lips with the back of her hand. “The sun is almost risen, the ritual almost complete. The Master's rising is unavoidable now!”
“You've not succeeded yet. You haven't given him enough blood, Darla.” Wesley shot back, unable to get a clear shot with his crossbow - what with the minions in the way.
“I've given enough, in conjunction with what Luke will have fed on by now.”
“You're giving your boyfriend far too much credit.” Faith replied, twirling her sword in a now familiar gesture.
“You insult me more than you know with that accusation. And you're disgustingly self-confident for food.” Darla lunged at her, moving fast enough to pin Faith to the wall, hand on her neck, the other hand twisting the dark-haired Slayer's weapon free of her grasp. Straightaway, the minions became expendable – and both Wesley and Gunn terminated them with extreme prejudice.
Darla ignored the end of her undead servants. They had already fulfilled their purpose anyway. She said to Faith, “I wonder – how do you taste? Angelus and Spike always swore that Slayer blood is something of an aphrodisiac. Is that true?”
“I don't know.” Faith choked out. “I've never tasted my own blood.” The click of four crossbows, all aimed at Darla, brought a smirk to Faith's face.
“None of you could kill me before I broke her neck.” Darla said contemptuously.
“True.” Wesley said, sticking his sword in her back. “But your death means the end of the prophecy's influence in this world, and I'm sure that Angelus –I'm sorry, Angel – has fulfilled his part by now. What with the cow and all.”
“Cow?” Darla demanded the least bit uncertainly.
“The Brood of Aurelius shall cleanse the Earth of the kine. The word translates to 'cattle', not human, despite your undead prejudices. Didn't you know even that much?” Fred asked tauntingly. Darla immediately glared at her for it, as the certainty that she had succeeded in freeing the Master began to slip away, like quicksilver through her fingers.
“I could kill you before you could give me anything more than a flesh wound.” Darla told Fred menacingly
“Over my dead body, leech!” Gunn shouted.
Darla immediately let go of Faith, spinning around before anyone could react. Four crossbow bolts flew at the female vampire, but three missed, and the fourth was knocked out of its path when Darla swung her hand up to to do precisely that. Less than three seconds later, Wesley went flying into the wall. It didn't take Darla long to snatch up Faith's sword and charge at the others. Faith herself scrambled to her feet and ran for Darla.
But she kicked out at undead speed, removing the Slayer's legs from out under her, leaving her sprawled out on the floor again. Gunn once more brought his axe to bear, trying to get inside Darla's guard with a underhand swing.
Unfortunately the blonde vampiress was unfazed and sliced her weapon right through the weapon's wooden handle, less than an inch away from Gunn's hand, effectively disarming him. Then it was Fred's turn. The inventor-cum-demon hunter released her collapsible sword, managing to block Darla's sword strike, but staggering back under the sheer force of the attack. Sparks flew from Fred's sword as Darla's connected with it. Gunn threw the separated head of his axe at Darla as hard as he could.
The vampiress just jumped nearly six feet into the air, letting the weapon sail right underneath her feet – so it spun on its way and embedded itself in Wesley's leg, inducing an scream of blinding pain from the former Watcher. The force of the blow wasn't enough to sever his leg, or cut the bone, but it was enough to fracture his leg's bones.
Fred kept stepping back as Darla resumed the attack against her, biting her lip until it bled, bile rising within her throat, her stomach tightening. Xander tried to come at Darla to kill her, but her undead speed allowed her to easily fend off both attackers. Still, it kept the evil blonde busy as Faith tried to think of an option other than unarmed combat.I need a weapon. I need a fucking weapon.
She looked around . There was nothing she could use. Nothing, except – the axehead in Wesley's leg. She pulled it out, wincing at Wesley's latest scream as blood started to pour from the wound. Cordelia, darting around the edge of the battle, ran up to the former Watcher, tearing his bloodstained pants leg, tying a makeshift tourniquet around his leg, tight enough to yield more noises of pain. Reading those books has paid off on something for once.
Cordelia paid the blood staining her hands and her clothes no mind at all. And if Harris had had time to look in her direction, doubtless he'd have been stunned to see the daughter of his former employer acting like this. Or, maybe not; they had been through a lot together recently...
Darla, even as all this happened, as a newly armed Faith came towards her, was still holding off Xander and Fred. Fred, no expert swordswoman, was barely holding her own, trying to get away as an unarmed Gunn was trying to detach Wesley's sword from its wrist-device.
Swinging her weapon again to block one of Darla's attacks, Fred found the weapon hitting empty air as Darla reversed the blade's path and sliced into the wrist of Fred's empty hand. Xander could do nothing to prevent it, his sword strike deflected by Darla half a second later with effortless ease.
Fred didn't even get a chance to scream as her hand fell to the floor – even as Faith swung the axehead into and through Darla's neck, dust and dismemberment joined on the floor.Coming Eventually to a Computer Near You: The Prophecies Cycle Book II: The Blinded Eye: The rising of the Master has been prevented, but at terrible cost in blood, and even more in spirit and soul. But, battered and wounded, facing a new dawn, our protagonists see no rest, as vengeance, duty and desperation see them acting on a new, grander stage than ever before. As the winds of prophecy sweep across the world, dangers, friends and foes sit in every tavern, and stand behind every door.