Not mine.The Prophecies Cycle
Book I: The Red Moon Rises
Chapter 3: Sineya's Response24 to 30 Days until the Red MoonTemple of Sineya,
In the center of the gym, a tall, pale, black-haired man fought with a short, blonde haired woman, hand to hand. It was almost comical, the height difference. But this was no ordinary man, and this was no ordinary woman.
The man grabbed the woman's arm and wrenched it up, flipping her on it and throwing her to the ground. He came close, in the process, to breaking her arm, but pointedly avoiding doing so.
“You need to improve your guard, Buffy. Angelus would have killed you twice already today.” The man said, reaching down an arm to help the woman – Buffy – up.
Buffy took his arm. “But he's not here. And the whole reason I'm training with you is so that I can get better. When we started, I would've died five times by now.” She got back up to her feet.
“Is that really
the reason you're training with him, B?” Came another, also female voice from the doorway. “And here I was thinking you just wanted an excuse to feel Angel up.” A dark haired woman, slightly taller than Buffy, walked into the gymnasium. “Hey Angel.” She added, raising a hand a moment.
The man – Angel – nodded at the woman, ignoring her first comment. It was a familiar line from her. “Hello Faith.” He looked back to Buffy. “Again?”
Buffy nodded, but before they could begin, a third woman entered the room, much older than the both of them. Nikki Wood, High Priestess of the Agaden Temple of Sineya. She had a severe expression on her face. “Ah, Buffy, Faith, Angel. Perfect. I didn't all three of you here, but you're just the ones I was looking for. Something...has come up that may have terrible ramifications. I need you three to investigate it. We'll talk about it in my office.”
The Daughters of Sineya were not a group that thrived on bureaucracy. But it was impossible for them to escape paperwork completely. No organization their size and scope could. There were food, supplies, weapons to purchase – for the Daughters themselves, for the various people that made up the hired help, for the witch covens aligned with each temple. There were herbs and other mystical ingredients that needed to be acquired for those same witches, for their spells and potions. And that money needed to be properly tracked and organized, and the expenses justified. And they needed to keep track of the money coming in. The Daughters were funded primarily by unsolicited donations, from kings and nobles and others who believed that it was best for their long-term safety for the local Temple of Sineya be well funded, so as to better fight vampires, demons and the forces of darkness. But they also took treasures looted from the nests and dens of vampires and demons slain – it was amazing how rich some of them were, sometimes.
And then there were reports. With teams of slayers traveling across the world, doing their best to keep a lid on demonic and vampiric activity, there were the constant reports sent on to the nearest temple. Because not only were the traveling teams supposed to kill any vampires and demons they came across, but they were also supposed to keep their eyes open, their senses extended so that they could pick up any signs of major, long term plans and schemes, or attempts at apocalypse. At which point reinforcements could be sent as needed. Information on new demons needed to be collected and codified. It was simply impossible to do this without paperwork.
The Agaden Temple, like all the temples, had clerks and other hired help to deal with the nitty-gritty of the details, but at some point, the responsibility had to rest in the hands of the a Slayer. And so, in addition to being the leader of the Temple in slayer matters, each temple High Priestess had to be the one to, at the end of the day, sign off and approve all paperwork.
And so High Priestess Nikki Wood, like all High Priestess of Sineya, had an office.
Once the four of them were in it, Nikki sat down. “You are familiar Angel, I trust, with a vampire cult known as the Order of Aurelius?” Nikki already knew the answer – she didn't need to see the look of recognition that passed across Angel's face to know that he knew.
For Angel was not a straight up human. No human could've beaten a Slayer in anything remotely resembling a fair fight in the first place. No. Angel was not human. He was, in fact a vampire. A vampire with a soul.
Hearing the name of the cult brought back...unpleasant memories, for Angel. They were memories that he always carried with him, yes, but he usually managed to avoid thinking about the worst of them, generally speaking.
Liam Galway had been a ner-do-well drunkard son of a prominent merchant. Then, a rather poor choice of who to follow out of the tavern had resulted in him being turned by a vampire named Darla. He soon acquired a new name, one which was still well known and feared across the world, by humans and vampires alike. Angelus. He with the 'angelic face'.
For two and a half centuries, Angelus and Darla, later joined by his childe, Drusilla, and his grandchild, William – or Spike, as he was known now – had carved a bloody swath across the continent, on a raping, pillaging, murdering run of blood, destruction, and death. They had gorged on the terror they inspired, the destruction they'd wrought. The four of them had been known as 'The Whirlwind'.
And there had been the Order of Aurelius. Like Darla herself, and Spike and Drusilla as well, Angelus had never taken the beliefs of the Order very seriously. Destruction of the world at the hands of the Old Ones was not something he wanted – he was having way too much damn fun here on earth. But they were useful as hell, as fodder, as minions.
The orgy of blood and violence had ended 103 years ago. Angelus, like Darla, tended to try to avoid Slayers, but sometimes there was no getting away from them, especially when you created so much outright carnage. There were just too many of the damn bitches. So he'd killed more than his fair share, either by purposefully killing them himself in ambush or in a straight up fight, if he really had to, or by simply burying them in bodies.
In fact, his record of Slayer kills made him one of the most famous vampires on that score – only vampires like St. Vigeous, and the one calling himself 'the Master', as well as a handful of other, long dead vampires, had higher Slayer kill counts than Angelus. Which was probably why the witches of the Agaden Coven used him for the ensouling spell.
It had been a wholly new spell, as Angel understood it. Created as mostly theory by one of the Agaden Witches, the High Priestess of the Agaden temple had heard about it, and decided it was a good idea. Her temple had been one of the hardest hit by Angelus's continued predations, as he tended to stay in and around Arenso. She had had an idea. Some had called it mad, others had called it brilliant. But it was a simple concept: Who better to train Slayers than someone who remembered killing dozens of them?
It seemed an extremely reasonable option at the time, and so the Agaden Witches had cast the spell. The magic was far darker than had been anticipated, and the witch who had cast it had been forced into rehabilitation for over a year, to get over the resulting dark magic taint. But it had been a resounding success. Angelus had gotten back his soul...the human he had been remembered all the things that he had done as a vampire, all the horrors he'd visited on others, the death, destruction and evil he had wrought...
To know all the terrible things he had done, and to actually give a damn. It was a daily torture he put himself through. He had spent the last century redeeming himself to the best of his ability. Which, he felt, was never enough. He did his best to train Slayers, and he believed he did well on that score. From time to time he went out to fight demons and vampires directly, but he didn't trust himself around ordinary humans that much. He survived on the animal blood, and over time, he'd even grown used to the disgusting taste, but he still, he craved human blood. Here, he could keep himself under control, and he hoped he always could...
“Yes.” Angel said, all this introspection happening quickly. “I know them. Angelus...he was a member, though he never took them very seriously.” It helped him, sometimes, to think of Angelus and what he did as being done by another, separate person, who happened to look like him.
“Who are they?” Buffy asked, “I mean, I've never heard of them.”
“Its not surprising.” Nikki said. “The Order itself keeps a fairly low profile, even though the Whirlwind was made exclusively of its members.”
“That was you and your old gang, right Angel?” Faith asked softly. Angel nodded, and then continued.
“They're an old cult, based on the belief that the Old Ones will return one day, and eliminate the plague of humanity. And that in the meantime, vampires need to prepare for it. Its leader...a vampire calling himself the Master,” Angel paused, shrugging, “he went and died centuries before even my time, and the cult's been splintered. My sire, Darla, led one large faction.”
“Actually, the Master was never killed.” Nikki said. “I had to refamiliarize myself with the events surrounding the Master's defeat...the Slayers of the time couldn't kill him. They tried for a long time, but he just refused to die. Not even staking. Eventually, Witches sealed him away. And...we forgot. The seals were supposed to be forever. But I've just received a letter from a scholar – a Rupert Giles - who suggests that may not be as true as was thought. Referring to the 5th Prophecy of the Dark Oracle.” She lifted a particular sheet of paper from her desk and read off of it.“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.”
She set the paper down. Both Faith and Buffy had been unable to prevent themselves from shivering a bit. It was an eerie verse and prophecies had a power of their own, in their words, to incite emotions across the spectrum. “He also included some information about this 'Red Moon'. It is a real astrological phenomenon, and its coming. The Master may be free as soon as twenty four days from now. And...the Witches of the Coven are at a loss as to how that might happen, but the fact is the Dark Oracle hasn't been wrong, in the substance of his prophecies, ever.”
“What are we supposed to do then?”
“We need to prepare. I need the three of you – Angel, as the closest thing we have to a resident expert on the Order of Aurelius, and you, Buffy and Faith, as the most experienced Slayers I have here at the temple – to go to the fortress were the Master was when he was sealed away. I'll be sending more as soon as I can, but preparations need to be made. If vampires are gathering in the area, they need to be eliminated, to prevent any sort of ritual from taking place, to prevent the Master from having minions underneath him if he does in fact return. The Coven is getting everything it can together to rebind him, and working on new variants of the spell if necessary. And trying to figure out how they might actually kill him, since there was no discovered way to do it before. We need more information, and we need to do all we can to prevent or contain the Master's return. This Giles mentioned that he was attempting to get his hands on a book known as the Pergamum Codex, which he believes might be able to help us acquire more information.” Another look of recognition on Angel's face. “You know it?
Angel nodded. “Its the holy book of the Order. Contains, among other things, all the prophecies of Aurelius. No Aurelian vampires will willingly surrender a copy.”
“I doubt this Giles was planning on asking nicely. He said he would send more information as he acquired it. Or if he managed to locate a copy of the Codex. In the meantime, the three of you will travel north, to the Master's resting place. Kill any vampires there that you can, and most importantly, stay alive. All three of you. More Slayers will be coming. If you can't do it on your own, get behind a threshold and wait.”
Buffy nodded. “Okay.”
“Dismissed. Leave at sunset.” Nikki told them. The three left the room, standing in the hallway outside the High Priestess's office a moment.”
“We have a few hours yet.” Angel said. “I'm going to get ready, grab a little sleep before heading out.”
“No problem, Angel. B and I need to go pick up supplies from Red anyway.” Faith said. Angel nodded, and turned down one hall, towards his room.
“Is Angel the only person you don't give a nickname to?” Buffy complained as they headed down another hallway, towards the Coven area of the temple.
Faith considered, “Pretty much. Well, I don't give a nickname to the High Priestess, because – hello! High Priestess – but apart from him and her? No one that I can think of. You, Red, T, Wolfboy.” She rattled off other names. “Where is Wolfboy anyway?” Faith suddenly asked, changing tacks. “He was here before I left on my last circuit, but he's not here now. Where did he go?”
“Oz went on a vision quest.” Buffy said. “Something all msytic-y. Advancing to the next level of mental actaualiza-whatsit.” The blonde woman said somewhat dismissively. “I don't know the details. He'll be back.”
It didn't take them long, once they reached the Coven area, to find Willow Rosenberg, or 'Red', as Faith uncreatively called her after her hair color. She was a new initiate into the Coven, having just passed her training, and so, was left with the fairly boring and dull job, when she wasn't performing spellwork, of overseeing the enchanted weapons and supplies the Coven provided the Slayers when they were out in the field, divvying them out at request. The Coven simply didn't trust that a non-witch could keep an eye on them properly, and they were warded to prevent tampering.
When they entered, Willow was talking softly with another woman, slightly shorter than her, with light blonde hair. Tara Maclay, another witch, and Willow's girlfriend.
“Hey Red, T.” Faith said, when she entered. Willow and Tara both turned to look at the new arrives.
“Hey Faith, Buffy.” Willow said, Tara following suit in greeting them.
“We're here to pick up the usual – weapons, communication orb, the paste,” Buffy rattled off. Enchanted swords were as much a part of the Slayer arsenal as crossbows and stakes, the spells going into them made to be extremely deadly against vampires and demon. The communication orbs were one-way – only a witch could cast the spells to speak through one orb to another, but it was a way to deliver vitally important information back and forth, if absolutely necessary – the spell could be very draining, and the overall sensation it gave the user was...unpleasant, to say the least.
The paste was a healing paste, made from a combination of herbs activated with a spell. Slayers had healing that was much, much faster than the average human, but sometimes even Slayer healing wasn't fast enough, and the paste, while hard to make, had also saved the life of many a Slayer.
“Of course. The High Priestess sending you to where the Master was sealed?” Willow asked, heading back to collect the requisite items.
“After the High Priestess told the leaders of the Coven, they told all of us. We're all supposed to see if there's anything we can come up with on the magic side of things about how to resolve this.” Tara said softly, in explanation. Buffy remembered when the girl – young witches in training and young slayers in training all had their rooms in the same wing of the Temple, and shared many classes early on – couldn't get a sentence out without stuttering, but now...
Willow returned with the items. Buffy and Faith each grabbed a sword. “You take the orb, B.” Faith said. “I don't want to have to worry about getting yelled at if I drop it. So I'll leave that to you.”
“You're all heart, Faith.” Buffy replied.
“When are you leaving?” Willow asked.
“At sundown. The High Priestess is sending Angel with us. Apparently his sire is an Aurelian. So we'll need to take it all at night.”
“Which leaves us wide open to being attacked while we're on the move.” Faith complained.
“We're Slayers,” Buffy replied, rolling her eyes. “We can handle what comes at us.”
“Doesn't mean I want to get attacked. I'd rather do the attacking.” Faith replied, swinging the sword experimentally. Next Time on Red Moon Rises: Wesley, Gunn and Fred near the castle controlled by the Aurelian Nest, but they're not the only ones looking for more information about the Master's return. Not all who are evil want to see the return of the Old Ones, and in particular among them, a woman whom Wesley rather hoped he'd never meet again.Author's Note:
Bonus points and a free cookie to anyone who correctly guesses the woman in question. Not that its that hard...