Warnings/Notes: This is a reexamination of the last five episodes of Buffy with a few twists. As such, much canon dialogue is used to set the scene. I try to stick faithfully to Buffy canon, and to LOTRs canon history. My intention is simply to add to things not mentioned, or described. There is a major non-canon Silmarillion pairing which is part of the story. I try to be as faithful as possible to the history, themes, and intent of Tolkien’s work. I used the first five seasons of Buffy for references (especially the last five episodes of Season Five), and The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and the Appendices), The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, and The Peoples of Middle-earth.
Disclaimer: All BTVS characters and their canon histories are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. All LOTRs characters and their canon histories are the property of the Tolkien Estate.
To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying,
The wind is blowing, and the white foam is flying.
West, west away, the round sun is falling.
Grey ship, grey ship, do you hear them calling,
The voices of my people that have gone before me?
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Field of Cormallen, The Return of the King
Giles should have read the diaries closer. Or, at least the incantation in detail. The actual translation was not Vision Quest, but rather the Quest for a Vision. It wasn’t his fault, not truly. While Giles was amazingly talented in Sumerian, Latin, Greek, and endless other languages, Swahili wasn’t one of them. And really, after reading that the ritual had been used for other slayers when they were lost, it was an easy assumption to make that it would help Buffy in her time of doubt. Only those other slayers had used it when they had been confronted with soul-sucking demons, or spirit-absorbing wraiths.
It was, at its essence, a search for your lost soul. The Quest was meant to summon the missing piece of the slayer, and return it. In some slayers, it manifested as guidance needed to reconnect with their core of being, in others it provided missing memories to give the lost slayer a link to her missing soul. In theory, since Buffy’s soul wasn’t missing, the chanting and the gourd shaking should have done nothing. Perhaps it might have shown her vision that was basically a reflection of her own precognitive abilities, but it would have still been essentially Buffy doing the work. No outside intervention. But Buffy was different from all previous slayers who had used the Quest.
She was special, even among the special ones, something all people who came into contact with her sensed, but were never able to truly understand.
They had never meant for her life to get so complicated. The Powers, that is. They had only wanted her to learn all that they had been required to teach her before sending her home. Sometimes, the High Sister rued the day she and her Brother had ever taken the charge of that lost soul.
It had started out so simple.
The Valar had asked, more like ordered, the lower beings of a lesser dimension—The Powers That Be—to guard and guide a soul that needed to grow and change before it could be returned home to its own dimension. The Powers knew that growth could not be secured with a simple, ordinary destiny and so Buffy Summers, Potential, had been born.
It seemed almost certain that she would become the Slayer, and soon after her fifteenth birthday, she did. The Powers That Be had watched with delighted joy as the Slayer had faced her tasks and completed them with ingenuity and grace. That once weak and fearful soul became strong, out of necessity but also wisdom. They were surprised, of course, when she fell in love with the vampire, but that had always been her true flaw, she loved too deeply and too well, if not wisely.
Yet still, the High Sister and the High Brother had watched with tempered awe at the depth of love the young Slayer was able to feel. She loved those who were lost, those who were weak, and those who simply needed it. Even when a monster wore her lover’s face, she had loved more blindingly than the brightest fire.
Part of that love was a searching love.
It wasn’t Buffy Summers’ fault, not really.
But deep down, she could sense that she did not belong. That she was separate, apart. And subconsciously, she knew that she could never truly love the men she took to her bed. She knew not why, and probably would have scoffed if she had been told it was because she had long since loved another. But that love was there, in the depths of her soul, affecting all her decisions. When she loved the vampire, she saw in him her lost love’s belief. When she loved the solider, she saw in him her lost love’s kindness. His name was hidden from her, but he stopped her from letting in men too close.
The Powers were fascinated by her, even if sometimes frustrated by the headaches and pains she caused. Most lower beings were like uninteresting bugs, worth nothing more than the dirt underfoot. But the Slayer, oh, she had potential. Her soul radiated with goodness and power, love and light. She always fought for the good, but in that dedication there was something else as well. A selflessness, one that caused her to be hurt over and over.
They had been told that she was being sent to their dimension as a type of purgatory. Until she learned and grew from her previous mistakes, she could not come home to her own dimension. In her home dimension, she had been too passive. She had been the victim, and she had not fought for those who depended on her. It was only when the one she loved was threatened that she finally was able to summon some spirit of defiance. But by then, her actions had been too small and the doom of her people and home had already been ordained. Still though, she had in her last moments a chance to accept her fate and be forgiven for her wrongs. But she had not taken it. Her last moments were ones of useless flight and the desperate wish to hold off death.
She hadn’t learned at all.
But still, the Valar knew truly the importance of the soul, and even more importantly, the importance of her to her soul mate. It was a horrible thing to split up united fëar
, and to not have them be born together. Buffy felt some of that now. While she was confused at her inability to connect to men, she hadn’t yet become desperate, which she would if she was cut off from her soul mate much longer.
The Valar had loved her when she was of their sphere. Though she was born to the Men of Westernesse too late, she was still a wonder to behold. The Golden Lady of Armenelos, the most beautiful jewel of Númenor, who was guarded and blessed by everyone in the realm. When she was young, her happiness had been the people’s happiness, and they had been thrilled to see her walking the streets of The City of Kings, or framed in the windows of the King’s House.
But despite her beauty and joyous personality, she was weak. And when she died, the Valar knew that for her to be reborn to retake her rightful place, she must first learn from her mistakes.
She must first become strong.
So they sent her to a lower dimension’s guardians, and now the Powers were going to take advantage of an Englishman’s mistake. It was a Quest for a Vision, not a Vision Quest. But if she wanted a vision, they would give her one. Or several.
The Powers were nothing if not opportunists. And visions could be in the form of memories too…
After all, they were her own memories anyway.
Yes, Rupert Giles should have paid better attention to his Swahili. But, perhaps it was a good thing he had taken that course around the time of his descent into Ripper. He had meant to help his Slayer regain her focus, but he did her one better.
He set her free.