Gargoyles: the Animated Series and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Disney and Buena Vista Television, No money is made from this.
This will reference events from the second season two-part episode season finale "The Gathering." David Xanatos, Owen Burnett (aka Puck) and Alexander are not mine; they are only borrowed for the story.Disclaimer:
Buffy: the Vampire Slayer is the creation of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Inc, and the WB network. All related characters, concepts, events are the property of their respective creators, and do not belong to me.
Note: This is the sequel to "Ill Met by Moonlight
." and will pick up shortly after where that story left off, although with a good interval taken into account. <g> "Common Ground, Breaking Ground" by Karen
Manhattan, New York, present day
David Xanatos had his attention focused on the computer screen in front of him. He looked up and acknowledged his presence with a wave of one hand. "In a moment, Owen." he said by way of greeting his aide, and went back to adding up the expense account records with meticulous attention to detail. The man did not tolerate mistakes, even in himself. He also preferred to think of his office as his Inner Sanctum. Sanctum. He closed the books with a soft thump and stretched his arms to relieve the stiffness. "Owen, have you had the chance to review the blueprints submitted last week by the contractors?" Xanatos asked.
"Yes, Sir. I assume they were meant for the scheduled renevation of Castle Wyvern which sits atop our gleaming edifice," Owen added, moving forward to take the chair across the desk from his boss.
"That had to be postponed due our last family reunion," Xanatos grinned, his dark eyes narrowed in mingled amusement and seriousness. "Do you have any idea how much repairing the damage done to the Eyrie Building by Oberon alone, is going to set me back. In the back of his mind, "Not to mention, how much that damn security system itself cost."
"Most vexing, Sir," Owen said with a remarkably straight face, his hands folded one over the other in his lap.
"Have you spoken to our tenants?" Xanatos asked.
"Actually, Yes. They were out on patrol, except for Hudson, and Bronx,"
"That is to be expected How did they take the news?"
"To sum it up, Hudson was his usual self: Taciturn, polite, but not very forthcoming. I did not bother to consult the gargoyles’ watchdog, " Owen managed to sound smug, "It would just earn me a face-washing, however well-intentioned."
"Hah!" Xanatos laughed, "Owen, I think you just made your first joke."
Owen winced, creating shallow lines to crease his forehead. "Was I making a joke?"
"The place is falling down around their ears, but I assume it must feel like home. After all the castle does date from the 10th century. Maybe they prefer it that way."
"We will just have to wait Goliath and the others return from their nightly patrol," Xanatos agreed.
"Well, never mind that. I’ll worry about money another time," Xanatos shook his head. "I know that look on your face, you came here to discuss something important, what is it?"
"That does lead into what I wished to discuss with you," Owen began.
"If you recall, several months past, before you declared a truce with Goliath for saving the life of your son, Alexander."
"Owen," Xanatos began, a warning note in his voice.
"I’m getting there. We received warnings of the unexplained absence of Goliath, Angela, and human woman, Detective Elisa Maza. I find it highly unlikely that would just suddenly disappear and then reappear as if nothing ever happened."
"I was not completely unaware of the situation. After all, Goliath and his Phoenix Gate, allowed him to travel through time. What was your term for it, ‘most vexing. How that gargoyle managed to be in the right place at the right time to thwart some of more brilliant plans, is still beyond me," Xanatos shook his in mingled admiration and frustration.
"Indeed, Sir," Owen replied, folding his arms across his chest. "Well, it seems that one of these side trips involved a place called Sunnydale, California. There they met a girl whose destiny is to be the defender against the supernatural creatures of the dark and arcane. It seems, a young man there encountered the Goliath, and his daughter, Angela, and somehow or became involved in adventure which involved one of the children of Oberon, the Banshee." My sources tell me that the Weird Sisters confronted her and the Banshee was banned from Avalon," Owen finished. He clenched his fists to his sides and wondered if she had been given a choice, like he had, to give up ever returning to Avalon and being cut off from the source of his magic, as the Puck, by staying among mortals. . In truth, Owen Burnett was not even real person, only a identity adopted by the renegade dark elf. The same one whom the Immortal Bard, Shakespeare made the star of his play " A Midsummer’s Night Dream,
the one called Puck.
"What with Oberon summoning all the Children of Avalon back to the isle, forcibly, in some cases," Xanatos trailed, thinking back to only a few short weeks ago when he’d had to defend his home and his family from Oberon. "All right, I want this matter probed into deeper. I want you to take Alexander with you, and fly out on the next available flight."
"Won’t your wife, ahem" be a trifle upset?" Owen asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Let me worry about her," Xanatos. "I’m intrigued about this mystery. It might be a completely unrelated event, or it might lead into something more. In any case, find out and give me the full report upon your return. That will be all."
"As you say, Sir," Owen replied, getting up in one smooth motion and headed for the door that lead down to the lower floors of the building.
***Sunnydale, present day
It was already morning from the sunlight streaming in through the half-open window of the first floor house, when the diesel truck backfired sounding as loud and startling to Xander Harris as a gunshot. If he hadn’t already downed his morning cup of coffee, that he would certainly have woken him up. As it was, he nearly dropped the coffee mug onto the floor of the kitchen. A little of the hot liquid sloshed onto the counter, and he absently cleaned it up with a dishrag that had been draped over the sink fixtures. That done, he went into the living room and glanced over to where a sleeping bag was spread over the sofa. He sat down in the chair next to the sofa and patted the outline of the form underneath the covering, to wake up Chloe.
To his surprise, no one was there. He glanced at the grandfather clock in one corner of the room, where it leaned up against the wall. In the back of his mind
Just as he was about to call out her name, he heard the water running in the shower, a liquid gurgle and mixed in the sound of running water he could also hear her singing to herself. He leaned back in the leather seat of the chair and tried to make out the words of whatever song. Chloe sang as she rubbed in the shampoo into her red hair; her voice ranged from a mid tenor and just shading into a low soprano. Xander wondered if she should be surprised that she had such a nice singing voice. It sounded like stones being skipped over the surface of a lake causing concentric ripples to spread out in every direction, then faded away. Her voice swooped like wind in the leaves, going up and down the musical scale.
"Why do all supernatural, scratch that, former supernatural beings get up so early?" Xander muttered to himself, getting to his feet and putting on the clothes that he had set out the night before. He found them exactly where he had left them draped over a chair. "Let’s review: My best friend’s are the Slayer, her Watcher, who probably is like the local expert on all things arcane, and a Wiccan witch. I’m dating the Banshee. Do I just have some sort of magnetic attraction to the supernatural, like a magnet drawn to a lodestone, or what?"
He had just tied the laces on his shoes when Chloe came out, her red hair dripping wet and wrapped in a terry cloth towel.
"What were you singing?" Xander asked, trying not to stare, and ended up blushing.
"An old melody, one that doesn’t really have lyrics," Chloe replied. "It’s been used in variety of ballads down through the centuries."
"You’re in a good mood," Xander said.
"Why shouldn’t I be?" Chloe replied, shrugging, the movement sending her red hair rippling down her back in a wet shiver. Xander turned around, giving her time to get dried and dressed, and tossed her a pair of baggy sweats and jeans from the pile of clean clothes that he’d managed to find time to wash.
"You know, I’ve been thinking," Xander said. "I think we need to talk. I mean, uh, we never really talked about what went down in that park."
"Hmm," Chloe murmured coming over to sit beside him and leaned into him, he put his arm around her shoulders. "I was wondering when you’d get around to that."
"Thinking is dangerous, love. It will get you into trouble the same amount time that not thinking something through will trip ye up and then you’d end up rushing headlong into peril."
"Like I said, maybe we should talk about our relationship," Xander began.
"I figured you’d be the one to bring it up," Chloe replied.
"Is your magic gone?" Xander asked. "How much do you remember about what happened?"
"You mean the fight with the Weird Sisters," Chloe nodded. "I willnae lie to you, Xander. I wish I could see that it’s all a blank, that I can’t remember anything." She wrapped her arms around herself like she was trying to give herself a hug, so looked a lot younger and more vulnerable in that position then he had ever remembered her look before. "Everything, and it hurts a little, but the feeling will pass eventually."
"There’s one thing, I don’t understand, and that’s why you keep calling those three women weird, okay, they were strange and kind of creepy and all that but the weirdness is just…." Xander said.
"It’s word borrowed from the Old Norse word for charm, or spell because it was also associated with magic and with dragons. It was given as a title to those three coven sisters because their magic was so powerful and even more so when they became wardens at the gateway to the Isle of Avalon," Chloe said.
Xander blinked a few times, and nodded. "Pretending I’m following all that, what happens now? I think we should start with our living arrangements. As posh as by subterranean accommodations are, I don’t think we can keep up this co-habitation forever."
"You’re probably right, and what’s wrong with your subterranean accommodations?" Chloe asked, getting up to get ice cream and chocolate sauce out of the refrigerator and poured it into a bowl, then she came back into the living room.
"Uh, it’s a basement," Xander replied.
"So, I used to live in a peat bog, so I would call a basement moving up in the world," Chloe laughed, spooning up bit of the ice cream and chocolate mixture and gulped it down.
"You’re kidding?" Xander laughed, as a ring of chocolate became smeared all over her lips. "Maybe we should talk to Giles about this."
"Good idea, Xander, I know it’s only been a few weeks, but there’s something else we need to get Giles’ advice on. It’s a strange feeling, and one I’ve never felt before. I’m not sure how to put this.." Chloe trailed off.
"What is it? Come on, tell me. I’m sure that whatever it is, we can work it out together," Xander becoming concerned.
"Well, I think, no, scratch that, I think I may be….pregnant?" Chloe said, dropping the spoon into the bowl and holding her hand over her middle.
Xander just stared at her hand resting at her mid section. He stared like a landed fish in shock for a minute, then toppled forward, off the couch and onto the floor, then and he blacked out.
"Xander?" Chloe stood up in one smooth motion and went over to him, She placed her hand on his throat where she could feel his pulse beat slowly. She pulled back onto the sofa and waited until he regained consciousness.
"No, I’m okay, really," Xander said when the shock wore off. "Let’s go talk to Giles."
Giles opened the door after the doorbell had rung about six times, he was mildly surprised to find both Xander and Chloe standing on the other side of the door. He was taken aback for only a second, and then escorted them inside. He had tea steeped already and poured them each a cup. He then sat them down at the wooden table that served double duty for eating and for research. Giles shoved the accumulating pile of books both mundane and arcane in nature, to one side.
"To what do I owe this honor?" Giles asked in his crisp British accent.
"We need to talk." Chloe and Xander said simultaneously.
"Of course," Giles replied.
"Well, it’s like this." Xander began, "We were talking and about stuff, and our relationship and living arrangements, and one thing lead to another, and sooner or later before you knew it.."
"Is something wrong?" Giles asked, concerned. "Take deep breaths, Xander."
"No, I wouldn’t exactly call it wrong, but we need some advice, and I figure you being the older and wiser one, that maybe you be the best person to help us with this," Xander said doing as instructed.
"It’s just that, I don’t know who to go to about this, and I know that we probably should have had more closure or more explanation after what happened during the "Do you miss having your magic?" Xander asked.
"It’s not gone, it’s just less than it was now that I’ve been cut off from the source, and having to relearn what it means to be mortal and live among them," Chloe replied.
"Oh, dear" Giles said. "
"I may be mistaken about this, but I think I’m pregnant," Chloe said. "And I don’t believe it was something I ate."
"What?" Giles said.
"She’s having a baby," Xander said.
"I heard her." How did this happen? No, and before you say anything else, I know how the natural process works, thank you." Giles sighed. "I don’t even know where to begin on the implications of a mate between a mortal and a supernatural creature. Although it’s not without precedent. Let’s say, for the sake of argument that Chloe is having a baby, I’m more concerned with the long term implications of this. Neither of your are ready to be parents, are you?" Giles glanced over at each of them, and looked in their eyes, Xander’s were wide with mingled fear and anticipation, his darks eyes reflected a great deal of determination, more than he had for a while now Chloe sat in her chair and idly stirred the tea leaves in her cup, her red hair had come loose from the braid she had it up in, and it covered her green eyes, they were wide but the expression was one of excitement and confusion.
"We’re more worried about if the baby will be born with magic. Xander said.
"Twill be too early to tell," Chloe said.
"There are ways to test for it, but we may have to wait until tomorrow morning, so we can take Chloe to a doctor. In the meantime, they are several sources I would like to consult. It’s late. Chloe, where are you staying?" Giles asked, standing up and began to make a circuit around the table.
"With Xander," Chloe replied.
"Hmm, I think you should stay here for now, Xander you can bunk on the couch, Chloe can have the spare bedroom upstairs." We’ll talk more tomorrow morning." Giles said.
"Are you going to tell the others?" Xander asked.
"Until we know for sure, I would advise you wait on that," Giles said, distracted.
"Okay," Chloe and Xander nodded.
Meanwhile, Owen Burnett stepped out the rented stretch limo that pulled up outside the entrance of the fancy but slightly shabby hotel that his boss had booked reservations for both him, and his ward, young Master Alexander Xanatos. His employer had been most adamant that Alexander accompany him on this mission, and being a dutiful and loyal aide, he had complied. To look at it, no one would took any notice of this man. He tall, thin, with sandy brown hair, and wire-rim glasses. He wore tweed suit and brown loafers. All in all, a person who would be just another face in the crowd, someone designed to blend in, to be present, and who could his presence felt when it was absolutely necessary, and then make it count.
Down through the millennia, mortals had always intrigued Puck. They certainly were more entertaining than his own kind, and so he had offered a choice to David Xanatos, multimillionaire and adventurer, one wish from the Puck, or a lifetime of service from Owen. To his lasting surprise, Xanatos chose Owen, and thus he found himself here now. Of course, the situation was a little more complicated then that; and circumstances of the past few years found Puck exiled from the homeland of his people, cast out of Avalon. All this meant was that his magic was weaker, but he had enough to work a few spells and tutor young Master Alexander in the arcane arts.
Owen looked around. Failing to seeing anyone else who could be either watching or listening, he rattled off a few phrases in Latin and for a brief eye blink the every-man clothes fell away, and in their place were a tunic of white linen and around his waist was a silver belt held clasped together by a gold belt carved in the form of a dragon. Silver dust sparkled on his fingers. He sighed, and then reached inside the still open door of the limo, and pulled a 9 month-year old out. The boy had sandy brown hair like his mother, Fox, and his father’s dark brown eyes. "So much fuss over you, little one," he whispered and with that stepped inside the hotel, where the clerk at the front desk confirmed his reservation, checked the both in, and then handed him the keys to his room. With a glance and a nod to the bellhops. They took his luggage from the limo and led them up the stairs to the fourth floor.
Once there, they left his bags on the floor by the bed, and left. Owen set the boy down on the bed, where he promptly fell asleep. Owen looked at him for a moment, and then with a snap of his fingers and a fall of silver dust, he saw the golden magical aura that surrounded the baby. All living beings gave off a magical energy aura in the visible spectrum of colors; some were brighter and clearer to see with his magical sight. The boy’s a gold shot through with orange sparks. He snapped his fingers again, and Owen Burnett went to his own rest in the other double bed. Morning would be soon enough to begin his investigations as well as check out the jobs site that Xanatos was had outsourced to begin construction of medieval castle. "Nothing‘s going to happen until then," he sighed, and fell asleep.
Jarrod Anderson moved across the construction yard with his hard hat dangling from one hand by its strap, and the other shoved in his pocket, acknowledging the greetings from the other members of his early morning shift crew. Reaching the scaffolding they had raised on the east side of the crumbling castle wall. He figured that this was the reason he had gone into construction in the first place. He had loved climbing trees as a child, and being raised high above the ground, with the wind saying the his platform perch, and the wind in his hair; was worth all the extra hours and sweaty manual labor. Jarrod stuck his hardhat on his head, grabbed a rung of the wooden ladder and began climbing. He kept going up and up, one hand after another. Finally reaching the top of the scaffolding, he moved over to the side of the wall, and began to carefully check for the cracks in the mortar, where the plaster that he laid down the night before had failed to settle. He moved over to where he had left the trench filled with concrete along with the brush to spread it evenly. He bent down and tried to remove the brush from the trench, but the concrete had hardened, and he had to twist and back forth by force, before it would come loose with a popping sound.
He began to get into the task at hand with a rhythmic motion and kept whistling. He was so absorbed in the job, that it did not even register as the wooden ladder creaked and footsteps came up behind him. When it did occur to him that someone else was present, he slowly began to turn around, he could only see an outline and figure dressed in jeans and a hooded gray windbreaker; their face covered in cloth to keep out the dust. Just as he was about to open his mouth to ask what was wrong, the stranger thrust out his arms and pushed off the scaffolding in the other direction then he had come from. Falling, his arms wind-milling, and it all happened so quickly, he didn’t even time to scream before he hit the ground below will a dull thud, and it was over, just like that. He last conscious thought before blackness took him was "At least I finished the job."
The foreman of the construction crew came forward, his hardhat off-center on his grizzled hair, his overalls covered in dust and chalk. "Dardnest thing, I could have sworn that the scaffolding was up to code. Climbed it myself only this morning."
"Did you check it before Jarred Anderson went up there this morning?" Chloe asked.
"Was it an accident or was it deliberate? Buffy interrupted.
"Could it be the work of the Initiative?" Xander wondered.
"Beats me," Buffy replied, "But I wouldn’t put it past them, especially if they thought the kid had been turned by one of the vamps."
"Seen Spike around lately," Xander muttered.
"I know you don’t like him, but he’s still got that chip in his head, so he’s not that much of a threat. And he’s taken a shine to Dawn, it’s almost as if he’s protective of her," Buffy said.
"Okay, okay," Xander replied, "Point taken, but I still don’t have to like it."
"Who did the funding come from?" Chloe asked the foreman.
"Don’t rightly know," the man said, "But why don’t we go into my office there," he indicated a traveling van, "and I’ll look it up for you. If I recall, it was some big muckety-muck wealthy man out of New York." the man added after a moment. "You with the police?" he asked, suddenly suspicious. "We took the contracting job ‘cause it paid well, and and no questions asked. The guy had a really weird name, sound Greek or maybe Russian. Never could tell."
"Greek?" Chloe raised one eyebrow.
"Yeah," the man replied, nodding his head.
Xander and Buffy exchanged significant glances. In the back of her mind, she turned the pieces of this over and over, some refused to fit where she rightly felt they should belong. For one thing, okay so it wasn’t a local job. But New York, that was 2000 miles away and all the way across the country. What would some wealthy bigshot like that want with a small operation in the middle of nowhere in California. Something about this picture didn’t fit, and she was damned if she wasn’t going to get the bottom of it.
"It’ll come to me in a sec," he continued. "Wait a minute, I got his business card right here in my pocket," he dropped the hardhat and plunged his hand into one of the many pockets, and rummaged around for a bit, as Buffy was forced into an impatient tapping of one foot on the hard-packed ground of the construction site. He finally pulled out a rather crumpled and sorry-looking white business card; and written on it in elegant red letters were the words: Xanatos Enterprises, LLC. Manhattan, New York, NY. The Eyrie Building.
"To answer your question," Buffy said, "No, we’re not with the police. But we are concerned with finding out what happened to cause this boy’s death. If you could loan that card maybe we’ll be closer to find out what really happened here," she finished.
"Glad to oblige," the man immediately replied, handing over the crumpled paper rectangle. "Here you go. If that’s all you need, I’ll be getting back to work."
He left and adjusted his hard hat as he walked away in the direction he’d come from.
They watched him disappear from sight as he rounded the corner of the partially restored outer wall of the castle. Unknown to them, Owen Burnett dropped his disguise and retrieved Alexander from the grass that lined the bottom off the wall.
"The Banshee is enjoying being mortal far too much. That I expected, but there’s a peculiar aura that smothers this place, the majority of it is positive, but there’s an undercurrent of evil. The blond girl, who is she? And why is she so interested in what appears to be nothing more than a case of industrial sabotage? Mr. Jerrod Anderson’s death, while regrettable, is hardly a moment of concern for a group of co-eds. Hmm, curio user and curio user."
"What now?" Xander asked as they walked away from the construction site, and away from the noise of sawing, pile drivers, and other heavy machinery and manual labor.
"We find out who’s responsible for that kid’s death," Buffy said.
"How?" Chloe asked.
"I’ll go out on patrol, I may even pay that snitch at the bar a visit and pump him for information," Buffy answered, distracted her mind already racing through different plans, randomly selecting and discarding one after another.
"I want you and Chloe to check with Willow and get her up to speed with what’s happened. Once you do, we’ll all met up with Giles at the Magic Shop," Buffy stated.
"Okay, sounds like a plan," Xander nodded.
Chloe and Xander went over to Willow’s place. "Willow?" Chloe said, as she stepped inside the dorm room, shutting the door behind her.
"Chloe. What are you doing here?" Willow asked, surprise in her voice.
"I told her a little bit about your wicked Wiccan talents," Xander said, by way of introduction.
"Yes," Willow said, intrigued in spite of her initial suspicions, but offered her a seat and "What do you need?"
"This is going to sound pretty strange, and I know that we really don’t know each other that well," Chole trailed off, shaking her head and wondering at the last minute, if she even had the right to be asking favors of strangers, especially one that was Xander’s closest friend.
"Maybe we should explain," Xander said.
"Okay," Willow nodded.
"Buffy’s on patrol, but she sent us over here for some magical searching," Xander said.
"If Buffy’s okay with it, then so am I," Willow said.
"Well, there’s this guy that’s been working at my jobsite, and only this morning when he was climbing on the scaffolding, he fell to his death," Xander said.
"We’ve already ruled out that it was an accident," Chloe added.
"Foul play," Willow finished.**
Willow sat cross-legged on the carpet of her dorm room with her hands in her lap.
The lights had been dimmed to almost nothing, and the only light came from a series of candles placed strategically around the room. Chloe sat facing opposite her, in the same position. Xander went over to one side of the room and made himself comfortable on Willow’s futon, that was folded up into its daytime position as a sofa, trying to rein in his impatience while they performed the spell.
"If we’re going to do this, we’d better do it right," Willow said, reaching across the center of the improvised circle and grasped the other woman’s hands in her own. "Now repeat after me, ‘Hear me, help me, Holy One. My witch life has just begun. I dedicate myself to Thee; My faith shall be fierce and free./Make me worthy, make me wise. Liberate me from all lies. Guide me in they Goddess light. Illuminate each dark night. I light the candle, I taste the wine. I purify the air with incense fine. I make the pentagram with my knife, I declare my witchhood with my life.
I offer myself in naked truth. Grant me wisdom and the joy of youth. Upon thy altar my soul is bare. I leave myself in thy loving care.’"
"We’re thinking that by doing a spirit summoning spell, we can find out what caused the boy’s death, and maybe the will allow his spirit to rest in peace," Chloe said.
"Around here?" Willow asked, blowing her limp red hair out of her eyes. "I was being rhetorical. All right, I’ll help, here’s what we do first." and began sketching out the steps necessary to perform the spell on a piece of stationery that she had lying on her desk.
Chloe poured some more incense into its holder and its pungent but savory scent wafted around the circle and around the room. Without knowing how she know, she recalled that it would purify a home in preparation for a visit from the ancestors. She wanted to find just what had killed this boy, and all they had was a lock of his chair, that she had placed into box next to four carved gourds she had picked up at the Magic Shop. The Mexicans had used them for centuries, and in their language they were called ‘calveras’ or skull. They could be into talismans that paved the way for a successful spirit contact. In the circle she placed each of the gourds at the four cardinal points. Incense was a blend of lavender, cinnamon, and wormwood. The blend would create a portal to and from the spirit world. On either side of the incense, she placed to white candles and two small mirrors to reflect the light from the candles, back to the portal. She knew it would serve as a protective device to keep out harmful spirits from crossing over.
Willow nodded and signaled that all was in readiness; "Speak this charm:
"Open wide the portal this night. For Spirits whose countenance shines bright;
Entities of love who wish us well."
A wind with no easily recognizable source blew through the room. Chloe chanted the incantation as instructed, in a rhythmic breathing of inhales and exhales as she tried to wrap her mind around the required state of being that would allow the magic to work.
Moments later, inside the small doorway created by the candles, the circle grew bigger. The spirit glowed Jerrod Anderson appeared, his ghostly form almost transparent, "Taken before my time, I guess in death it’s the same I was in life, a nobody, the man who expendable whenever the company needed someone to take the fall," the ghost laughed, ‘get it? Fall. Well, never mind, " the ghost was about to add more, but whatever it was he would have added, was lost as the gateway between this world and the spirit world sealed shut.
"Wow, what a head rush," Willow sighed.
Xander walked over and glanced at both girls, then at the computer screen
Willow sat in front of the rather beat-up but still serviceable computer
in the Magic Shop, and typed in the address for the Sunnydale city morgue. She wondered at all the weirdness that had come into their lives because of either being friends with the Slayer or just the set of circumstances that surrounded people as the result of living in Sunnydale; it was like a magnet for the supernatural. "I’m probably one of the few people around here who have this bookmarked as a favorite on my lists." She drummed her fingers on the mouse pad and waited while the computer whirred and clicked before finally come up with a list of possible matches from the data she had entered on the dead boy.
"So, his death was deliberate then?" Xander asked.
"Definitely," Willow replied, and rocked back in her chair, ‘See that," Willow thumbed the section of the computer screen that displayed the vital statistics of one Jarrod Anderson, age 26, unfortunately late of Sunnydale, CA. According to the coroner’s report, cause of death was a from the fall and breaking his neck. In their professional opinion, he shouldn’t have been climbing up around there because he was subject to vertigo."
"Xander, can you tell us anything else about him. Did have a fear of heights, or any medical condition that would make him lose his balance and fall off?" Willow asked.
"I really don’t know," Xander. "I mean, I’d see him around, but I never really had much to do with him."
"I never thought I’d live to see the day that magic and technology would work in harmony," Chloe sighed.
"It’s all magic," Willow said, "The two aren’t mutually exclusive."
"As someone as should know," Chloe shrugged, ‘Energy is energy, whether generated by science or by sorcery.’ Speaking of which, Willow, I had no idea your talent for magic was this focused."
"Hmm," Willow couldn’t help blushing, "It might have something to do with living in this town."
"I just had a thought," Xander said, fishing out the crinkled business card. "Here, get out of this site and do a search for this Xanatos Enterprises. I mean, if they were the ones funding the castle construction project, then they must be involved somehow."
"All right," Willow replied, taking the business card.
"Is Xanatos a corporation or a person?" she asked as her fingers ran over the keyboard, she hit the search button and waited until the results came up on the screen.
"Oh, he’s most definitely a person," Chloe muttered under her breath. In the back of her mind, she was beginning to see the outlines a series of random incidents, not that she believed in fate or destiny, but the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place.
"That’s odd," Xander replied. As a the graphic loaded on the site and the first thing that caught their attention were the crumbling ruins of a authentic Medieval castle perched atop one the tallest skyscrapers that they had ever seen. The caption underneath the picture read" The Eyre Building."
"Okay, if this head honcho provided the funding to restore that old castle project of yours," Willow began, and rubbed her forehead . "Why anyone would want to build a castle here is beyond me. Why sabotage their own project?"
"Maybe they decided to pull the plug on the funding, and just hadn’t got word around to the people they contracted to do the actual work," Xander answered.
Xander looked at the clock on the computer, "We’d better get going, Buffy expecting us to rendezvous at the Magic Shop in another half hour, and we’ll compare notes on what we’ve found."
"I’ll just straighten up here, and then we’ll go," Willow replied.Encounter
Chloe entered the grove, a feeling of space and stillness surrounded her, like soaring upward, and structure. It was similar to half-constructed cathedral that was still in the building stages, but that had been built by nature and not by the hand of man. She could feel a pressure and force surging up from deep within herself.
"I’ve been expecting you," Owen said by way of greeting.
"Is that David Xanatos?" Willow asked. "And why does he have a baby with him?"
"A baby?" Xander wondered.
"No," Chloe replied, narrowing her green eyes. "That’s his henchman. Puck, or Owen Burnett, or whatever you want to call yourself. What happened her between myself, the gargoyles, and the Weird Sisters, is none of your business, nor that of your boss."
"I beg to differ, Madam," Owen replied, not in the least taken aback by her hostile glare.
"What concerns the Manhattan clan of gargoyles is very much the business of Mr. Xanatos," Owen replied, folding his arms across his chest. "However, we have far more grave matters to concern ourselves with at the moment, do we not?"
"What are you talking about?" Willow wondered.
"If I may venture to hazard a guess, the dead boy," Giles said.
Owen nodded. "Mortals are so much fun."
"Could someone clue me in here," Buffy interrupted, "Who is this guy, and what did he mean, that we were expected here in this grove?"
"Oh, hello, I didn’t even you standing there," Owen said, crossing the stretch of grassy slope that separated them. "Where are my manners tonight, Allow me to introduce myself. Owen Burnett, but to those with more than mortal sight, like your Wicca friend over there. She no doubt sees me in my true guise, that of the dark elf, Puck."
"Come again?" Buffy asked.
"Oh very well," Owen snapped. "Children these days; zero respect for their elders. Owen Burnett, and my ward here, is Master Alexander Xanatos. He held up one finger in a cautionary pose, and pressed it to her mouth, "Wait, don’t tell me, you must be the Slayer, Buffy Summers?"
"Yeah?" Buffy replied, knocking him aside. "I’ve had enough of the Q & A," Buffy shouted, "I say we take this guy out and ask questions later." Buffy said.
"As for the boy’s death, quite tragic, in its way, but we were not the ones responsible," Owen stated, picking himself off the ground and dusting himself off. "It seems our competitors were rather disgruntled about not earning the contract, and attempted a little industrial sabotage, and poor Mr. Anderson suffered the consequences."
"We are in stitches at your wit, Puck. However, some of us do not have time to play your games. What is it you really want?" Chloe demanded.
"Ask her," Owen simply replied, gesturing with left hand at Chloe.
"Chloe?" Buffy turned to the other woman.
Owen snapped his fingers, the air around their little group filling with a silver aura and suddenly his suit and tie dropped away to reveal a slender man with pointed ears and robes.
"Puck, you’re acting on your own now," Chloe said, moving until she was only steps away from him and stared directly into his eyes. ."Yuir enjoying this entirely too much."
"I must admit, I had some inklings that you were part of the reason that the Phoenix Gate sent Goliath and his entourage to Sunnydale that last time, and the Weird Sisters came here to summon you back to Avalon for the Gathering." Puck/Owen explained.
Outside their inner circle of two, the others in the grove tensed as they could sense the battle of wills between the two as they stared one another down. Xander could feel it, and wondered when the face off would end, like lightning about to strike. He glanced around at their trees in the grove, and wondered if they get out of the open, because he recalled something about trees not being a could place to stand when a storm was about to hit. He was jolted out of his thoughts, when a crack appeared in the ground where the two stood.
The stranger that Chloe had named Puck, back-pedaled and leaned up against a boulder in the ground. The world stilled and when he senses of sound and light returned. He rubbed his eyes, and stared out into the grove.
Chloe knelt in deep grass. A man stood in front of her, dressed from head to foot in armor, except that it’s body was covered in ivy leaves. All were the same verdant color, and the plated scales of the armor made it difficult to tell were one left off and the other began. From one gauntleted hand, it held a sword in a tight grip. Between the slits in its visor, Chloe could make out a fit crimson glitter.
"I’ll take it on," Buffy said, gliding forward with a confident stride, prepared to stake the creature through the heart as if it were a vampire. Her forward motion was halted as she ran smack into an invisible shield made entirely of air. "What the hell?"
"No disrespect intended, after all, you are the Slayer," Owen said. "But this fight belongs to the Banshee."
"It’s some kind of a demon" Giles wondered.
"Not a demon," Owen replied. "It’s the Green Man. No one’s ever quite pinned down exactly what he is."
Meanwhile, Puck was chanting in Latin and wrapping stone and grass into a sword. He finished, stood up, and placed the sword, cutting edge facing him, into Chloe’s hand. "You might need this," he said and moved out range of the coming fight.
"This is my fight," Chloe whispered, moving away from the others, blocking out an extraneous thoughts or feelings, and tried not to worry about the fact that all she had to rely on this fight were her memories and her now human skills.
She grunted from the weight of the sword, and raised it level with the ground. She tapped the tip of the blade to the earth under her feet, and to the trunks of the trees. Knowing without, knowing how she remembered that all elemental powers were interconnected. Taking a deep breath, Chloe summoned all the resolve and strength that she could muster, and faced the creature, waiting for it to make its opening move.
When it came, he lumbered forward like a bear emerging from its den; oddly graceful for all it’s seeming bulk, building up momentum as it came towards her. Their blades met with a ringing sound of metal on metal. Chloe handled her with her right hand, using her center of balance to stay on her feet, and avoid being knocked over by sheer muscle of the Green Man.
She danced out o range, using the length of her sword to aim darting cuts at the Green Man. His longer, more powerful arms hammering away at her sword. Chloe parried with the flat of her blade, using the cross guard to block and occasionally lock up the hilt of her opponent’s. He hacked at her torso, tearing a long gash through fabric and flesh. Pivoting on her heels, she narrowly avoided another slash aimed at her ribs. The Green Man was bigger and stronger, so would just have to be smarter and faster.
The Green Man did not bleed, when a blow landed, instead of her now red human blood, it leaked sap like the life-blood of a tree. Xander could see rents in the thing’s armor like the trunk of a tree bleeding sap under an axe blow.
Chloe followed up, gasping for breath, and staggering as her strength gave out, she sucked in a lungful of air, and rallied, knowing that she couldn’t afford to lose this fight. She collected herself to run at the creature, her sword level with where the creature’s helmeted head met his shoulders, and ran for all she was worth. Chloe smote the head fell on the Green Man, swept past that larger blade, and separated its head from its body.
She was knocked off her feet and feel in a helpless sprawl about ten feet away. She lost her grip on her sword, as a ringing sound was the last thing she heard. She was exhausted and hurt, and didn’t even care as the sword crumbled into dust along with the creature she had fought.
When she awoke, she a circle of concerned faces standing around her, and Xander shaking and shaking her. "Is it over?" she whispered.
"It’s over," Xander smiled, helping her to a sitting position on the soft dew-wet grass.
"Is it gone?" Chloe gasped.
"If you mean that creature," Buffy said, in mingled surprise and admiration, "Yeah, it sunk back into the ground right after you took its head."
"What about the other two?" Willow asked.
"Long gone," Giles replied, taking stock of their surroundings."
"Good riddance," Chloe said, spitting out a tooth.
"I’m just glad it’s over, and things can go back to business as usual," Willow smiled,’ Well, relatively speaking, anyways."
"Speaking of relatives," Xander interrupted, "Warn me ahead of time, whenever any of yours plan on making surprise visits," Xander muttered under his breath.
"Promise," Chloe whispered. "Let’s get out of here."
"You’ll get no arguments from me," Buffy smiled as they walked away from the grove and left it to its silence.