Delivery, Discussion, Departure
I absolutely do not own Buffy. I absolutely do not own Angel. Move along now, FBI Agents. There's no copyright infringement here. Author's Note:
After three fairly action-heavy chapters, we're looking at a major decompression/information/dialogue chapter. Also, Buffy/Angel/Faith won't be arriving until probably chapter 9. They need to travel the three days from the Temple to Sunnydale Town, remember, and there's nothing to tell about their trip that warrants a separate chapter.
Thanks to Starway Man for beta-reading this chapter.The Prophecies Cycle
Book I: The Red Moon Rises
Chapter 7: Delivery, Discussion, Departure20 to 25 Days until the Red MoonThe City Gates & The Tower of Rupert Giles
Free City of Kayden, Kingdom of Arenso
The trip back to Giles' tower took just about as much time as the trip to the castle, give or take perhaps an hour. Wesley had spent most of that time occupied with his own thoughts, which was hardly an uncommon state of affairs for him to be in...but usually not quite to the degree he had been, on this particular outing.
Dominating Wesley's thoughts was the Pergamum Codex, and the potential impending apocalypse he, Gunn and Fred has seized the book in order to prevent. He'd made an attempt to translate the so-called 'holy' text during the journey home, but he'd faced...difficulties in doing so.
First and foremost, Wes had failed even to identify the language in which the text was written. Some words and grammatical constructions were similar to one set of languages, but others were similar to a completely different set, and yet more had no connection to any languages he knew – and Wesley knew several dozen of them. Granted, the ex-Watcher could make out bits and pieces – a word here and there, even the occasional phrase – but as a whole, the book was just so many chicken scratches. And without the reference materials he kept in his house – or more likely, the ones in Giles' tower – that was what the text would remain.
“I hope this thing really does help with the world saving.” Gunn remarked as the walls of Kayden loomed above them. “Otherwise, we just wasted four days on a useless trip – and we don't have that many days to work with, if Giles is right.”
“Don't worry about that, Mr. Gunn,” Lilah remarked coolly. “The Pergamum Codex will be a great deal of help in the whole 'world saving' thing, as you so charmingly put it. Because as both Wesley and Giles will freely tell you, information is power. And, even if it somehow, inconceivably, is of no help whatsoever, you didn't waste four days on nothing
. After all, you have me in your little group now.”
“Apart from one dispatched vampire, you've not brought that much to the table in the way of helping us in this endeavor.” Wesley replied, the temperature of his own voice as low as Lilah's – if not lower. “And while we're on the subject of you and help, actually, you've yet to share that information you promised us back in the castle. You remember; that “useful” information you promised us, so I wouldn't just stab you and leave your body in that basement to rot?”
Lilah ignored the thinly veiled threat. “Oh, come now Wes. You know I can't tell you yet. You can't seriously want me to ruin the surprise, can you?”
“Of course I can.” Wesley replied flatly. “I hate surprises.”
Lilah just made a face and then smiled at Wesley sweetly. Gunn and Fred exchanged a look, and just shook their heads over how the brunette woman was trying to 'play' them like this. Silence then overtook the group as they reached the city gates about a minute later, and Fred approached the two guards flanking the doorway.
“Four farthings for the lot of you.” One of them said. They had arrived, unfortunately, too late to be able to just waltz right into the city through the gates for free. Despite not being fond of wasting money on things like gate tolls, Fred was also not interested in spending the night camping outside the walls of Kayden. At the very least, it would cost them – and Giles – valuable hours with the Codex.
“That's highway robbery, and you know it.” The inventor told the guard irately, even as she opened her coin purse and began to dig through it to withdraw the coins she needed.
“I don't know any such thing.” The guard replied with a straight face, one hand outstretched. “What I do know is that the Lord Mayor has decreed a one farthing per person toll for entry into the city after sunset.” Scowling, Fred handed the guard four small copper coins. Checking them carefully in the light of the torch ensconced on the wall behind him for a moment, he finally nodded. “Alright.” He turned and shouted up to the wall top. “Open the gate!” Slowly, creaking and groaning agonizingly, the city gates opened inwards, and the four travelers walked into the city.
The streets of Kayden were not completely
empty at night – no city of any respectable size ever had anything close to empty streets, even at the darkest hours of the night. Streetwalkers, tavern goers, the occasional criminal and more shared the night. There might even be the odd vampire, but as a general rule, vampires had learned to not stay long in Kayden – it had a disproportionate share of effective hunters, beyond just even Wesley, Giles – who admittedly didn't go in for field work anymore – Gunn and Fred. Indeed, Giles had played mentor to a number of hunters who operated out of the city and its environs, over the years, though he was closest with Wesley, and through Wesley, Gunn and Fred.Odd how attempted murder can forge a bond of strong friendship.
He mused as they made the final approach to the tower.
Wesley's doubts about Giles' supposed crimes had already been brewing within him for a month by the time he finally reached Kayden. Nonetheless his attempt to kill Giles though, had been a concerted, committed effort – and laughably inadequate, in all reality. It was far more surprising that his fellow Britillian hadn't killed him, rather than keep him alive, and stoke those doubts by telling him the truth of what had happened. A week later, he'd sent a letter back to Travers essentially telling the man to shove the mission up his ass, and been promptly exiled out of the Watchers – fired.
There'd only been one subsequent attempt on Giles' life since then – on both of their lives, really – in the intervening years. One might have expected more, but the Council's killers had seemed to have other priorities. Certainly, Wesley doubted Travers had given up on eliminating the threat Rupert Giles posed, but the old man had obviously had other concerns and Quentin was most likely concentrating on them before taking care of old business.
Gunn knocked on the door, and within roughly a minute, the tower door had opened and Giles ushered them in. Rupert raised an eyebrow when he saw Lilah enter.
“Giles,” Wesley said, “This is Lilah Morgan, agent of evil and general bitch. Lilah, this is Rupert Giles, a fellow former Watcher.”
Lilah chuckled. “Oh, I know who he is, Wesley. His reputation precedes him among the circles I normally operate in. As do all of yours, really,” she said to the other three.
“Interesting to know that I'm well-known in evil circles.” Giles said dryly. “I take it this is the Lilah who once tried to kill you?” He asked Wesley.
“The very same.” The younger man replied. “She claims she has useful information. She's yet to deliver on that front.”
“That's because I intend to give the information to you when you need it, and not before. On account of I intend to be there at the end, and not get stabbed beforehand because you think I'm no use to you anymore,” Lilah said firmly. “Besides, Wes, you can trust me with this little endeavor. Back then, when I tried to kill you over that rare tome, it was nothing personal; just business. Right now, we're faced with the potential end of the world. Since I live here too, you can trust me to help you prevent it.”
“Trust.” Fred said. “You keep using that word – a lot. But I'm getting the impression it doesn't mean what you think it means. Whatever your reasons, you tried to kill Wesley. If you can't grasp why we have trust issues because of that that, then I think you need to reacquaint yourself with the meaning of the word 'trust'.”
Wesley couldn't help but smirk at that, even as Lilah openly sneered at the shorter woman. "Well said, Fred."
Giles opened the book and lit a candle with a murmured word. He turned the pages a few times, frowning. “It is going to take some time for me to extract any useful information from this. I suggest you all get some rest. I'll send word to you when I have something. You might use the time to get ready for travel. While I have no idea exactly what must be done to prevent the Master rising, I am confident that we can't prevent it from here, in Kayden. We'll need to be, at the very least, near where he was sealed away; that is where he will rise again. I did some research and it seems that there is a small town and lordship, both named Sunnydale, in the vicinity. It will serve as a convenient base, I suppose...”
Then a nasty thought occurred to Giles. If Aurelian vampires are going to be flocking to the site where their leader has been sealed away for around six-hundred years...then they're also going to see this...Sunnydale Town as a convenient base of operations...and a convenient food source.
Giles considered his options he could send a warning to the local lord, but there wasn't exactly much of a point. It would hardly reach in time to be of any relevance, and he'd already sent word to the Daughters of Sineya, and their temple in the Agaden Forest, where he'd sent the warning, was close enough to Sunnydale to have their people reach it in only a few days. Indeed, they might have already sent a team there, assuming his messages had arrived when he expected they had; and if Giles knew the Daughters at all, they had reacted fairly quickly to a threat of this magnitude. He shook his head a little, then looked back at his four guests.
“Thank you. I'll send word when I have something useable.” He repeated his earlier promise. Dismissed, the four of them left, and Giles set the Codex on his table. “Now...where did I put that folio?” He murmured as the others walked out the door.
Saying a brief goodbye to Wesley, Gunn and Fred quickly departed for their own home within moments of departing from the Tower. Looking delighted that they were alone at last, Lilah turned to Wes and purred, “So. I can't wait to see your place.” She stood behind him and leaned in close, her lips near his neck, her breath whispering along it as Lilah spoke in a low, soft voice. “Tell me, is your bed as big as the one-” But Wesley immediately stepped away, putting some distance between them.
not coming to my home, now or ever,” the man said firmly, ignoring his body's reaction to Lilah's words and actions. “I can hardly trust you there, and I'm not letting you come anywhere near the books I keep there, either.” Wes reached into his coin-purse and pulled out a few silver coins, which he tossed at Lilah; who caught them deftly. “There's an inn just down the way there.” He pointed. “That should suffice regarding a room for the night. You can pay me back later.”
Lilah straightened up. “And when you say 'pay you back later', are we talking money...or payment in kind?” She smirked at the Britillian's facial expression. “Oh come on
, Wesley! We both know what you really
want. Why deny yourself what I'm offering freely?” Lilah came closer, the smile vanishing from her face. "Trust me, lover; spending the night with me is something you'll never, ever
, forget, no matter how many other women touch your body in the future."
“I don't doubt it. I also don't doubt that I'd regret allowing you into my bed sooner rather than later, and that's assuming that I lived to wake up the next morning. Let's be clear on this, Lilah: what I want is a good night's sleep, with as much distance between myself and you as is practicably possible.” Wesley told the dark-haired woman firmly.
Lilah's smirk returned, and she chuckled a little. “Alright then. Whatever you say, handsome...for now, anyway.” She turned in the direction Wesley had indicated and headed towards the inn, leaving the former Watcher behind. Wesley watched her depart for a moment, then turned and headed home.18 to 23 Days until the Red MoonThe Tower of Rupert Giles
Free City of Kayden, Kingdom of Arenso
It had taken him the better part of two days to accomplish, but finally, he had something. Giles drummed his fingers against the cover of the Codex as he waited by the door. A few moments passed before he heard the knock, and so Giles opened up, quickly ushering his four guests inside.
“Come along.” He led them up the stairs and onto the second floor. He went over to the central table and picked up several loose sheets of parchment, sorting through the notes he'd made while translating, then turning back to the others.
“While there are still vast portions of the Codex I’ve yet to translate, I believe I've managed to glean the essential parts of what we need to know for this endeavor.” He started. “First of all, the place of power, or thing, that The Master tried to use, the first time around, was not, as I translated, the 'Maw of Fire', but rather, the 'Mouth of Hell' or 'Hellmouth'. Having consulted some rather obscure books on the subject, from what I can gather, a 'Hellmouth' is a nexus of dark energies, where the barriers between this dimension and one or more hell dimensions are extremely thin. Furthermore, there is something about the power put out by a Hellmouth that tends to attract vampires, demons, dark cultists, and the like. The Hellmouth at issue here, in what is now the Lordship of Sunnydale, was apparently quite active and rather dangerous, which is why there was little to no habitation in that area when the Master set up final shop there.”
He turned to another page of his notes. “His plan, if I'm cross-referencing this particular prophecy of Aurelius with the historical record properly, was to use the Hellmouth to break through the thinned barriers completely, and bring to this world one of the Old Ones. Which apparently, and by all that's good and holy I pray I'm not translating this correctly, resides inside
the Hellmouth itself. When his attempt failed and he was sealed away by the Daughters of Sineya and their allies, the mystical backlash of the interrupted ritual rendered the Hellmouth dormant. Over the centuries, I assume, people forgot it was there, and eventually, the Lordship of Sunnydale was set up on top of it.”
“I'm guess we really don't want this 'Old One' showing up?” Gunn asked. While far from stupid, and an experienced demon and vampire hunter, Charles Gunn, Giles thought, was not well versed in the obscure information and lost secrets that underlay the work he did – hardly a personal failing, as he was simply not brought up among such knowledge.
“No, we really don't.” Giles agreed. “An Old One is theoretically invincible, and certainly not something we – or even the Daughters of Sineya – are even remotely capable of handling. But that isn't really the direct issue at hand here. If the Master gets that far, we're doomed as a matter of course.”
He shook his head. “No, what we need to do is prevent the Master's release in the first place. And I believe, from my research, that I've determined a great deal about the specific circumstances that will accompany said release, in addition to the coming of the Red Moon.”
"Well?" Lilah demanded impatiently, as Giles shuffled through his notes.
Rupert ignored her rude interruption. “From what I gather, it isn't the Red Moon itself breaks the spell sealing the Master away, but rather the fact that the Red Moon had great theological significance to Aurelius and his cult. He believed that the Red Moon was the work of Amarra, God of Vampires; manifesting as a symbol to his children of his presence. Still, whatever the reason, several key rituals of the Order of Aurelius call for the presence of the Red Moon, and the rather significant mystical energy its presence creates. Including the one I believe will be used for releasing the Master.”
“Rather than destroying the seal, or overcoming the spell itself,” Giles went on, “I suspect the Aurelian vampires intend to free their leader by using a more...straightforward approach. There is a ritual that, in essence, strengthens the link between sire and childe, to the point where one can psychically transfer power to the other. In this case, the childe to the sire. There are some rather large bloodletting requirements, of course, but I doubt that will be too much of a problem for the undead.”
“So, you're saying they need
one of the Master's children for this ritual to work. Could they do it with a more...distant relative?” Fred asked.
“Theoretically, but only
theoretically.” Giles replied with a frown. “The bond grows weaker with each succeeding 'generation', as it were. The amount of blood and power would grow rather exponentially, and indeed, even with the Red Moon, I don't think even a grandchilde of the Master would be enough.” He continued, “What this means, then, is that if we can ensure none of his children perform this ritual during the night the Red Moon is in the sky-”
“Then we can prevent the Master bringing about Armageddon,” Gunn finished off the sentence, already focusing on practicalities. “So how many kids does this monster have?”
“Before his imprisonment, several dozen. After the final battle, from what I can gather, only two of them survived, and they now lead competing branches of the Cult. One named Darla, and another named Luke.” He dug through the pile on the table a moment, then retrieved an open book from underneath several others. One page had a sketch of a woman, the other, a man. He handed it to Wesley, who showed the others. “That is supposedly what both children look like, respectively.”
“So...we need to kill them both then.” Wesley said. “Where are they?”
“You mean right now? I have no idea. But I know where they will be. But they will both be where the Master was sealed away to perform the ritual on the night the Red Moon rises. I haven't pinpointed exactly where that is – the historical record is damnably vague - but it will be in the vicinity of the Hellmouth, and Sunnydale Town. I need to do more research, but the general object is clear, then. You four need to get down to the Hellmouth and ensure that both Darla and Luke are destroyed, or are otherwise rendered incapable of performing the ritual.” He opened a small wooden box and withdrew a small crystal sphere, which he passed to Wesley.
Lilah gasped a little in shock, and even Wesley seemed incredulous. “Is this...?”
“Yes.” Giles nodded. “Its a Yherrin Crystal
. If you expect to arrive at the Hellmouth in time to accomplish anything meaningful, you'll need to leave today. You can't afford to wait the days on end it will take for me to glean specifics, regardless of how vital those specifics are. Hence the crystal. I can use it to contact you through a scrying mirror.”
Wesley nodded, then eyed Lilah suspiciously for a moment. “You wouldn't happen to have some way, short of killing her,” Which continues to look like an attractive option
, “that I could ensure she doesn't make an attempt to steal an artifact as rare and powerful as this?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Giles said frankly. “You may have to simply kill her, or anyone else who attempts to steal the crystal. Which would be a pity, of course, but also an acceptable loss in the face of the apocalypse. I'll leave that up to your judgment, Wesley.” His tone was completely factual – Rupert wasn't advocating the killing of Lilah, directly, but there was that undertone of menace in the older man's voice that indicated he was deadly serious in his advice to his younger protege.
“Let's get going,” Lilah said uncomfortably, doing her best to change the subject after seeing the way Wesley, Gunn and Fred were looking at her. “None of us will get to the Hellmouth by just standing around here, after all.”Next Time, on Red Moon Rises: Even as Wesley, Lilah, Fred and Gunn make their way towards Sunnydale, Xander, Amy, Cordelia and the surviving guards find themselves, and all of Sunnydale, under seige from within, as an all too familiar face joins the vampires.