Though here at journey’s end I lie
in darkness buried deep,
beyond all towers strong and high,
beyond all mountains steep,
above all shadows rides the Sun
and Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
nor bid the Stars farewell.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Tower of Cirith Ungol, The Return of the King
The vampire who had interrupted the group discussion was now dust in the wind. In truth, Buffy had almost been relieved when her extra-sensitive hearing had picked up the sounds of a chase. Anything to get her out of the Magic Box and away from Giles and his pronouncement.Buffy, the only way is to kill Dawn.
But this vamp had been something of a surprise. She would of thought he was a newbie but for the fact that he was so strong. He had obviously lived for years as a bloodsucker and honed his strength. And yet, he didn’t know her. Buffy had been so used to all the vampires either fearing her, or actively trying to kill her. “Wow,” she said softly. “Been a long while since I met one who didn’t know me.”
Turning, she looked at the kid the vampire had decided to make his midnight snack. “You should get home.” She then headed for the backdoor of the shop.
“H-how’d you do that?” the boy asked, sounding shaken.
“It’s what I do,” Buffy said, not stopping. Death is your gift.
“But you’re ... you’re just a girl,” the kid said.
Buffy paused in the doorway. “That’s what I
keep saying.”~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
Buffy walked back into the Magic Box where everyone was still assembled around the table, waiting for her.
“Something goin’ on out back?” Xander asked.
“Vampire,” was all she said. Turning to Giles, she asked, “Anything?”
“Nothing you want to hear,” he said, rubbing his lips with his thumb. “The ritual is, uh…”
“Explain it again,” Buffy said suddenly.
“There’s nothing new to—”
“Go through it again,” she bit out.
Giles slowly removed his glasses. “The Key was living energy,” he said on a sigh. “It needed to be channeled, poured into a specific place at a specific time. The energy would flow into that spot; the walls between the dimensions break down. It stops; the energy’s used up; the walls come back up. Glory uses that time to get back into her own dimension, not caring that all manner of hell will be unleashed on earth in the meantime.”
“Um, but only for a little while, right?” Anya asked nervously. “The walls come back up, uh, no, no more hell?”
“That’s only if the energy is stopped,” Willow commented. “And now the Key is human…is Dawn…”
Giles put on his glasses as he looked down and read, “‘The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more.’ When Dawn is dead.”
“I have places to be!” Tara yelled out, startling the room.
“Why blood?” Xander asked, trying to pull the attention away from the fact that one of their friends had been driven crazy by Glory. “Why Dawn’s blood? I mean, why couldn’t it be like a, a lymph ritual?”
“‘Cause it’s always got to be blood,” Spike said, drawing Buffy’s gaze.
“We’re not actually discussing dinner right now,” Xander said sarcastically.
“Blood is life, lack-brain. Why do you think we eat it? It’s what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. Course it’s her blood,” the vampire finished, taking a drag off of his cigarette.
“Pretty simple math here,” Buffy jumped in. “We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a couple of hours, right?”
“If my calculations are right,” Giles said. “But Buffy—”
“I don’t wanna hear it,” the Slayer said, turning away.
“I understand that—”
“No!” Buffy snapped. “No, you don’t understand. We are not
talking about this.”
Giles jumped up from the table and yelled, “Yes, we bloody well are!” All eyes were drawn to him, causing the Watcher to lower his voice. “If Glory begins the ritual…if we can’t stop her…”
“Come on. Say it,” Buffy taunted. “We’re bloody well
talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister.”
“She’s not your sister,” Giles whispered.
Buffy felt as though she had just been punched. “No. She’s not,” she allowed. Buffy tried think of a way that Dawn felt like her twin and sister and daughter, all rolled into one. The monks had been clever. They had known that someone who felt like Mírwen…Buffy shook her head; she couldn’t think about that now. To Giles, she said, “She’s more than that. She’s me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her and I feel closer to her than…It’s not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn is a part of me. The only part that I—”
“We’ll solve this,” Willow said. “We will. Don’t have another coma, okay?”
“If the ritual starts,” Giles cut in, “then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death—including Dawn.”
“Then the last thing she’ll see is me protecting her,” Buffy said firmly.
Giles sighed. “You’ll fail. You’ll die. We all will.”
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said. “I love you all, but I’m sorry.” ~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
A loose plan had formed. It mostly revolved around distracting Glory until the time the ritual could be preformed was past, the dagonsphere, and a troll hammer, but Buffy was trying not to feel overwhelmed. It was easier to simply channel her energy, as she was doing now, imagining the punching back in the training room was Glory.
Violence was simple, something she could control. It wouldn’t overwhelm her, like her emotions.
“You sure you’re not going to tire yourself out?” Giles asked, his voice coming from the doorway.
“We’re still working on ideas. Time’s short, but, uh, best leave it to the last moment. If we go in too early and she takes us out, no chance of getting her to miss her window.”
“Then we wait,” the Slayer said succinctly.
“I imagine you hate me right now,” Giles commented idly, as if he was talking about the weather.
Buffy didn’t answer him, mostly because there was nothing she could really say. She was too numb to feel hate, too tired to feel anger.
“I love Dawn,” he said.
“I know,” she responded softly, turning to look at him.
“But I’ve sworn to protect this sorry world,” he said, “and sometimes that means saying and doing, what other people can’t. What they shouldn’t have to.”
“You try and hurt her, and you know I’ll stop you,” the Slayer warned.
Buffy walked over to the sofa on the far wall, and sat. Giles joined her. “This is how many apocalypses for us now?” she asked.
“Oh, uh, well, six, at least. Feels like a hundred.”
“I’ve always stopped them,” she said. “Always won.”
“I sacrificed Angel to save the world,” Buffy said. “I loved him so much. He reminded me so much of…but I knew, what was right. I don’t have that any more. I don’t
understand. I don’t know how to live in this world if these are the choices.” Buffy took a deep breath. Not even noticing, she was unconsciously distancing herself from the dimension she had spent the last twenty years in. “If everything just gets stripped away. I don’t see the point. I just wish that…I just wish my mom was here.”
Buffy stood, walking towards the door. She paused then, turning back to her Watcher. Death is your gift
. The words she heard in the desert ran through her head once more, and she realized in that moment that there was no deeper meaning. There was no great epiphany that was going to come, and she wasn’t going to learn some lesson. The Guide hadn’t been taking in riddles, she had just been wishing for her to be.
Turning back to Giles, she said, “The Spirit Guide told me that death is my gift. Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all.”
“I think you’re wrong about that,” her Watcher replied, shaking his head.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “If Dawn dies, I’m done with it. I’m quitting.”
She walked out, leaving Giles sitting alone on the sofa. ~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
“Buffy,” Giles said, calling her over. “Xander and Anya had an idea.”
“Did you find the dagonsphere?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah,” Xander said, “but we found something else too. The robot Spike had made.”
“You could use her as a diversion, see?” Anya said. “That way if you get crushed into a bloody pulp, there’s still a possibility of distracting Glory.”
“Ahn—” Xander began.
“No,” Buffy interrupted. “No, no, that’s good. That could be pivotal. Thank you guys.”
“Well,” Giles said, “You’re gonna need some—”
“Way ahead of you,” Buffy said, thinking of the extra clothes she needed. “We have time?”
“Yes, if you hurry,” Giles replied.
“Okay. I’ll grab some weapons too,” Buffy said.
“I’m looking for something in a broadsword,” Xander said.
Xander and Spike continued to bicker, but Buffy tuned them out as she examined the dagonsphere. The familiar feeling of magic washed over her, and then she pushed it away. She needed to prepare. “Spike, shut your mouth, come with me.” ~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
They were quiet on the walk to her house, the Slayer disinclined to talk to anyone, let alone Spike. He had tried when they got to the house, and Buffy got his promise that he would protect Dawn, but everything after that she forcibly pushed away.
In a way, she felt bad. She couldn’t
love Spike. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to try, though she didn’t, but it was more like there was no room left in her heart. She had been changing, unknowingly. Some changes are slow, unnoticeable…others are quick and obvious. This was a combination of the two.
What she wanted, the things she needed from a lover…these had changed. No more did she want to be a normal girlfriend with a normal boyfriend, but she also didn’t want to return to the drama that was Buffy and Angel. She wanted someone who understood her, who saw her clearly. Sadly for Buffy, the only person who fit that bill was a certain blonde vampire with no soul.
Stepping into her room, Buffy quickly grabbed her grey slacks and a white sweater, stuffing them in her black knapsack. She removed the bracelet she was wearing too, opening up her jewelry box and putting it away. Then, she paused.
There, on the top of the box, in the ring section, was a tarnished silver ring that she hadn’t worn in years. It had been a gift.
A gift from her mother.
Once, when Buffy was in high school in LA, before the Slayer, her mother had gone down to Laguna in Orange County to one of their summer arts festivals to look for new talent. Buffy, being only fourteen, had been dragged along, while Dawn had remained at home with their dad. After going through Art-A-Fair and Pageant of the Masters, Joyce had taken Buffy to the Sawdust Festival, which wasn’t like the previous two places at all. It was funkier, with a mix of homemade things and art.
One of the stands had been jewelry, and Buffy’s eye had caught on a simple silver ring. It had Celtic markings on it, and Buffy had been transfixed by it, so much so that her mother had bought it surreptitiously and given it to her for Christmas.
Seeing it now, knowing what she now knew, she could tell what her younger self had been struck by.
The markings looked Númenórean.
Flashes from her life suddenly appeared before her life, and she saw things in a totally new way.
How when she had been called a princess, it had felt right, like nothing else before.You are always thinking of others before yourself, Ampata said, You remind me of someone from very long ago: the Inca Princess.
Cool! A princess, Buffy replied.
Buffy had always been afraid of water, instinctively somehow. She had always feared it, and hadn’t wanted to take swimming lessons when her mother insisted. It only amplified when she had drowned by the Master’s hand. I hate it when they drown me.
And she had always felt wrong, older and heavier than her friends. All this time, she had thought that was the slayer talking. She thought it was the horrible, lurking truth that she was different than others and therefore more mature than them. It had felt like a punishment. Just how old is your soul?
So much suddenly made sense to her. All her life, the way she had always felt different, apart. And the dreams, they hadn’t been dreams at all…they were memories. She hadn’t been given a window into a girl’s life in another dimension, she had been that girl
. She wasn’t just relating to Míriel’s pain, she had experienced it. That’s where she was from; that’s where she was truly born.
She had been reincarnated.
Before Buffy, she had been Míriel. She had been a daughter of a King, and then a Queen who was overthrown. She had loved only one man, Elendil, and it was him that she had been subconsciously comparing all her boyfriends to. Buffy understood so much now, about who she was and what happened.
She was sent here for punishment. The Slayer didn’t know how she instinctively knew that, but she did. She was supposed to learn something. The irony, Buffy thought, was that she had made a mess of this life, just like her previous one. Sure, she hadn’t doomed the entire island by making a bad decision, but…she couldn’t
let Dawn die. Every feeling inside her revolted at the thought.
Yeah, she hadn’t doomed an entire race of people but…give her time.
Tonight would decide many things, and Buffy knew that she wouldn’t live to see the end of it.
She was going to die, and the world with her.
But as long as Dawn survived, the rest didn’t matter.
Guess she hadn’t learned from her punishment after all.~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
“We on schedule?” Buffy asked, as she and Spike reentered the Magic Box carrying weapons.
“Yes, it’s time,” Giles said.
Turning to Willow, Buffy said, “Will?”
The red-headed witch nodded, walking over to Tara who was staring off at nothing. “Tara, baby? Is there somewhere you should be?”
“They held me down,” Tara said.
“No one’s holding you,” Willow said soothingly. “It’s the big day, right? Do you wanna go?”
Tara nodded, walking out of the shop. When she passed by Giles, the blonde pointed at him and said, “You’re a killer! This is all set down.” She then looked over at Buffy and said, “Home isn’t waiting for you…it sunk beneath the waves.” Tara then walked out.
Blinking back tears, Buffy shook it off and said to Willow, “Stay close, but don’t crowd her. We’ll follow in a minute. Everybody knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts, we all die. And I’ll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.”
The Slayer then turned and went to exchange clothes with the robot.
Home wasn’t waiting for her…because of her. All the people she belonged with were dead, and it was time for her to join them.~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
The battle was in full progress. Buffy had stayed hidden for as long as she could, covertly taking out some of Glory’s minions, but careful not to draw the god’s attention in her direction. The fight ensued, until Buffy saw that the robot was about to be taken out, and then she moved into position.
“I’m feeling a little better.” Buffy heard Glory say as the Slayer moved into position. “And now? I’m a little bored.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the robot said. “Cause you’re about—”
Glory kicked the robot in the face, causing her head to go flying off and exposing the wires of her neck which sparked and crackled. “Hey, wow, the Slayer’s a robot.” Glory looked around in confusion. “Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?”
“Glory?” Buffy called with some derision. The god turned, and Buffy undercut her with the troll Olaf’s enchanted hammer. “You’re not the brightest god in the heavens, are you?”
Buffy then heard Dawn screaming her name, and she ran for the tower. Leaping over a pile of bricks, and up onto the stairs, the Slayer threw one of Glory’s minions from her path and raced up the stairwell.
Once she neared the top, Glory suddenly jumped in front of her and smacked her. Buffy returned fire with the hammer, and was pushed into the scaffolding by Glory. After exchanging blows, the enchanted hammer went flying from Buffy’s hands and tangled in one of the chains hanging from the upper level. When Buffy tried to reach for it, Glory grabbed another piece of chain and used it to swing around the side, knocking Buffy aside. Buffy fell, but quickly regrouped.
She and the god went back and forth, neither of the gaining ground, both trying to take their opponent out. When Dawn called for her again, Buffy raced to try to climb up the outer scaffolding once more, but Glory hindered her, making her slide back down.
Buffy used a momentary distraction to kick Glory in the face before running and retrieving the hammer. She smacked the god in the face with it twice, before Glory hit her back. The Slayer suddenly lost her balance and began to fall from the tower, losing the hammer once more, but in the last second she grabbed the god and pulled her down with her.
The Slayer and the god hit the pavement below, the fall and impact not really hurting either of them Buffy stood, watching Glory do the same. The god had landed a few feet from her, next to a wall. Buffy hid the smile that was teasing at her lips.
“You lost your hammer, sweet cheeks,” Glory said, looking victorious. “What are you gonna hit me with now?”
Buffy looked at the wall, causing Glory to turn her head. Suddenly, a huge wrecking ball came through it, knocking the god through a second wall and into another room. “Whatever’s handy,” the Slayer snarked.
Buffy then ran, grabbed the hammer, and was back before Glory even got up. Once she did, Buffy quickly hit the god in the face again with Olaf’s enchanted weapon, giving her no time to regroup. The blows kept coming and soon, blood was dripping from Glory’s face and she looked weaker and weaker.
Her face twisted in anguish as she looked at the Slayer. “You’re just a mortal. You couldn't understand my pain.”
“Then I’ll just have to settle for causing it,” Buffy said, smacking Glory with the hammer once more.
“You can’t kill me,” Glory said in disbelief.
“No, but my arm’s not even tired yet,” Buffy replied, taking another successful swing.
Glory fell to her knees. “Stop it.”
“You’re a god,” Buffy snarled, hitting her with the hammer again and sending Glory flying deeper into the room. “Make it stop.”
Buffy walked over to Glory and began to hit her over and over again. The sound of bones breaking and cartilage crunching filled the air, until Glory couldn’t hold her form any more. She morphed back into Ben, causing Buffy to stop hitting.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“Tell her it’s over,” the Slayer said. “She missed her shot. She goes. She ever, ever comes near me and mine again…”
“We won’t,” he gasped. “I swear.”
Buffy dropped the hammer and left the room.
She had to get to Dawn.~ The Gift of Ilúvatar ~
Buffy ran as fast as she could, pushing past the crazy people at the base of the tower and climbing up one of the sides. It felt like forever until she was at the top, but it was only seconds. Seconds that would change the course of her destiny.
When she reached the final level, she gasped when she saw her sister wasn’t alone. There was a man with her, and the Slayer sensed easily that he was a demon. “Dawn.”
Her sister saw her then and cried out, “Buffy!”
The demon whirled around and smirked at the Slayer. “This should be interesting.”
Buffy gave him no thought, simply pushing him off the side of the scaffold. She then rushed to her sister’s side, releasing her from her bindings. Dawn was crying, and Buffy could see that her sides had been cut. A feeling of dread grew within her, but she pushed it away. “Here,” she said.
“Buffy, it hurts,” Dawn said.
“I got it. Come here. You’re gonna be okay,” Buffy said, and helped her sister off the edge of the platform back towards the tower ladders.
Dawn suddenly stopped and turned to Buffy. The Slayer looked at her in confusion and ordered, “Go!”
“Buffy,” the younger girl said tentatively. “It started.”
The Slayer turned. She could see that the air under where Dawn had been standing was no lit up, and a portal was beginning to open. Lightening was crackling from it, striking down in the direction of the town.
“I’m sorry,” Dawn said.
“It’s doesn’t matter,” Buffy replied, and that was the truth. She had prepared for this moment. They were all going to die. She had known it. Dawn suddenly tried to run past her, but Buffy stopped her. “What are you doing?” she demanded.
“I have to jump,” Dawn said. “The energy.”
“It’ll kill you,” Buffy said softly.
“I know,” her sister replied. “Buffy, I know about the ritual. I have to stop it.”
“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. She couldn’t lose Dawn, she just couldn’t!
The tower began to shift beneath them and Dawn cried, “I have to. Look at what’s happening.” More lightening crackled, and both sisters looked up to see a dragon flying by them. “Buffy, you have to let me go. Blood starts it, and until the blood stops flowing, it’ll never stop. You know
you have to let me. It has to have the blood.”
And then she knew.Cause it’s always got to be blood.
It’s Summers blood. It’s just like mine.
She’s me. The monks made her out of me.
Death is your gift.
...is your gift.
Everything had become clear. Giles had been right. She had
misunderstood. Death wasn’t who she was; she was more than just a killer. Her whole life it seemed she had been walking towards this moment, once again facing death from on high.
Then, she turned. And, just like the beautiful setting sun that Buffy had seen before Númenor sank, this time she saw it rising instead.
The Spirit Guide had told her she had to forgive and embrace the pain, and she was right. Buffy had to forgive herself for what happened on Númenor. For the things she had done, and failed to do. All of it. She had to let it go. It would never be over if she didn’t.
So Buffy did the one thing she hadn’t thought possible. She forgave herself.
The sky was growing lighter, and the portal was widening. But none of that mattered. Buffy watched the sun begin to ascend and she felt peace. Yet, it wasn’t the fragile peace that she had attained on the Meneltarma, this was a lasting peace. Because, though she was the same person, something was different this time.
This time she was choosing her end.
Death was her gift. It was her gift to Dawn, to the world, but also to herself.
The Númenor Kings and Queens of old had ruled until their heirs were prepared, then they had passed the Sceptre on and laid down, passing into death. The island had lost that eventually, the kings learning to fear that which was natural and a part of life. But even she, as Míriel, in her last moment before the wave had taken her, had feared what was to come.
Buffy had no fear left within her.
Everything was ready. Her friends had been taught all they could learn about how to defend themselves. Willow would step forward and lead the group; she was strong. Strong enough to take over the mantle of leadership. Xander and Anya would be okay, they’d have each other. Giles would finally be able to return to England and carve out a life for himself as someone other than her Watcher. And Dawn…
Dawn would live.
It was her gift.
And this was Buffy’s.
She was ready.
Turning back to her sister, the look on her face must have given her away. Dawn gasped. “Buffy, no!”
“Dawnie,” Buffy said gently. “I have to.”
“Listen to me,” Buffy implored. “Please, there’s not a lot of time, listen. I love you. I will always
love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles…tell Giles I figured it out. And, I’m okay. And give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world…is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.”
Buffy then kissed her sister’s cheek and took one final look at her face. Dawn was sobbing, but Buffy knew that she would be all right. One day she would understand. One day she would know that Buffy had done this so she might live, and on that day she would forgive her sister for leaving.
Buffy then turned and ran, diving into the portal.
When the energy connected with her body, she felt pain more intense than anything she could have imagined. It ripped through every molecule, burning as it went and leaving pain in its wake. And yet, Buffy had no fear. She accepted it. This was her gift, and for that it was beautiful. She hadn’t been abandoned here in this world, she had been sent here. Sent here for this moment, to understand, to learn, and the Slayer knew, without the shadow of a doubt, that it was time let go. Well done, Tar-Míriel
, a melodic voice whispered in her mind, and then it was gone.
The energy then concentrated, destroying the skin and meat and bones that held the Slayer together, and then evaporated, taking the remains of Buffy with it.
There was no body left to bury.
Buffy Summers was completely consumed by the portal, leaving the world of vampires and demons behind. Though her family and friends would mourn and try in vain to bring her back, she was gone. Her time as Slayer on Earth had ended, and now it was time for others to take up her cause.
But this is not the end of her story.
A soul as great and a spirit as beautiful as Buffy’s did not die there that night.
It went home.