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Ascendent Sun, Burning Moon

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Summary: A lost soul, striving to redeem himself, and the world with him. A long foregotten teacher, fufilling his purpose. And the one girl in all the world who can save us all.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Fantasy > ExaltedInDrkFR1818106,27643910,90212 Sep 1227 Feb 13No

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Impeccable Patterned Deployment

A/N: I'm taking some liberties with a certain Anima banner in this chapter. I have no reason other than that I don't feel that the canon effect does the Exalt in question justice. You'll know which one I mean at the Reveal, as I'm calling it.

A/N2: Also, Angel doesn't have the Silver Tattoos, just FYI. No other Lunars existed to give them to him.

A/N3: There's a call-out to Keychain of Creation somewhere in this chapter. First person to find it and point it out gets to ask one background-related question about the story, and get a factual, non-evasive answer.



–Xander–

Darkness, was the first thing he became aware of as consciousness returned. Pain was the second. It struck him in an intense wave of cold and stabbing pain, like blades of ice coursing through his blood, shredding his muscles and veins, and he shivered and tried to scream, but he was too weak to move. He tried to open his eyes, but they wouldn't move any more. It was then that he realized that his eyes were open. He just couldn't move his head. Dimly, through a shadowy haze, he could make out a stone floor, but the pain was making it too hard to think.

“Well, well, well,” a bored voice observed, “Look who's up.”

“Wh-whe...” Xander tried to speak, but his mouth was too tired to move, and he was shivering too much anyways.

“The closest thing to Hell you'll find on God's green Earth,” came the uncaring response, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. If I still had my soul, I'd probably feel bad for you.”

“Wh-who...” he tried again, but gasped as his diaphragm spasmed in agony, cutting off his words.

“I'm nobody. Some schmuck who had the incredibly bad luck to pick up a vampire chick at the Bronze. Names Parker, I couldn't care less to meet you.”

“Xan-Xander,” Xander managed to gasp, hoping to get something useful out of his jailer, if he could keep the guy talking...

“Like I said, I have absolutely zero fucks to give. But if Drew tells you to do something, you fucking do it, or you end up like...well, you.”

“Dr-drew?” Xander asked weakly after the moments pause it took to gather enough strength to speak again.

“'The One Who Drew In Blood And Tears',” Parker quoted, and Xander could hear the eye-roll in his voice, “Some Abyssal-whatever who controls a big fucking torture coven. She collects attractive guys to fuck to death and turn. Guys she doesn't fuck...well, like I said: torture coven. Some advice: Don't resist. Don't try to be brave. Scream like a little fucking bitch at every turn, and after a few days, beg her to kill you. By that time, she'll be starting to get bored, and she's got some weird death cult thing going on where she feels like she has to kill the people who beg for it, and I mean really beg for it.”

“Don't...don't...wanna die...” Xander tried to protest, but suddenly his head was pulled up, and through the shadowy blackened tunnel vision his eyes were reduced to, he was able to make out a pair of hateful brown orbs on a pale, handsome young face. He felt a twinge of pity as he realized that this poor bastard couldn't have been much older than Xander himself when he'd been turned.

“Do you have any fucking clue what she'll do to you?!” Parker hissed, “She will skin your dick and fuck you! You ever heard of the Pear? It's this pear-shaped hunk of metal that she sticks up your ass and opens like a flower! She'll whip your back raw, and literally rub salt into the wounds! She has a thing for eyes! I was lucky that she just fucked me to death and let her minions turn me! I've seen shit here that you can't even fucking imagine! But, hey! You wanna endure a hell that would make Hell's legions recoil in horror? Be my fucking guest, I'm done trying to help you.”

The powerful hand let his chin fall back to his chest, and footsteps returned to whatever he'd been sitting on before. Another wave of cold agony rushed through Xander, and he began praying, hoping that whatever divinity that gave Buffy her powers would be able and willing to pass along messages.

–Willow–

“I'm glad to hear that you're having fun with your dad, Amy,” Willow said into her phone, leaning back on her white comforter, smiling as she caught up with her old friend, “You meet any surfer guys in L.A. yet? Wait, hold on, I'm getting another call-” Willow pressed a button on her bedside phone seat, and switched lines.

“Hello?”

“Is this the Rosenburg residence?” a male voice with a Scottish accent demanded urgently.

“Ye-yes, this is Willow Rosenburg, who is this?” Willow asked, taken aback at the man's tone.

“I'm an associate of Angel's, you need to get a message to him: The Dusk isn't coming, it's there. The Day called in reinforcements.”

“Um, hold on, let me get a pencil-” Willow said, flustered, but unwilling to question a message for Angel. Someone was probably in danger.

“No time, some kid's gonna die horribly, tonight, if Angel doesn't get this message. He's gonna go after the Day, but he needs to be prepared for the Dusk. I think he's with Buffy right now, the vision wasn't clear, but if you contact her, you'll get Angel.”

“Um, who should I tell him the message is from, if he asks?” Willow asked, phone nestled between her ear and should as she scribbled down the information anyway. She'd had the pen and paper at her side, and she was a quick writer.

“Oh, yeah, that's probably important. Name's Doyle, we go way back. Now hurry! Some Xander kid's getting tortured as we speak!”

“Okay, I'll-wait, Xander's being tortured?!” Willow exclaimed in a panic as the name made its way to her brain, but the dial tone was her only answer. Willow quickly hung up the phone and dialed Buffy's number.

“Hello, this is Dawn, resident nothing of the Summers' residence, how can I direct your call?” came a petulant girl's voice.

“Dawnie, it's Willow, Xander's in trouble, get Buffy!” Willow shouted urgently, she had no time for Dawn's sulking.

“I can't, she left with Angel just ten minutes ago,” Dawn said, immeditately worried, “What happened, is he hurt?”

“Yes, and I need to tell them how to help him, where did they go?!” she demanded, inwardly cursing in panic and fear.

“Something about a Christmas Tree lot, where nothing grows, or something?” Dawn said hesitantly, “I'm not sure, they were asking Mom for driving directions, but I wasn't paying much attention!”

“Damn!” Willow cursed aloud, ignoring Dawn's gasp at the normally polite-spoken girl's exclamation and dropping the phone. Willow had a vague idea of where Dawn was talking about, but it was a forty-minute walk! Then, Willow remembered that her mother kept spare keys beneath the hood, just in case.

–Buffy–

Buffy was sitting quietly, a worried look on her face, as Angel drove her mother's car at breakneck speeds through the town. She ignored the forces attempting to shift her in her chair as Angel made dangerously sharp turns at highway speeds in residential areas, casually defying physics as only Solar Exalted could. Angel himself was also left untouched by the motion of the vehicle, but probably because he was using his power to prevent the car from breaking under the strain he was putting on it. After a few minutes of driving, a sudden silver light began to shine from Angel's forehead as his caste mark lit up, and she closed her eyes and breathed deep of his comforting presence. She had no words to truly describe the feelings he woke within her, but if she had to try, she would call him soft and unyielding, with all the strength and power of a mighty mountain and all the precious beauty and brittle hardness of a diamond.

A slight breath left her as she began to unwind. The silver glow intensified, and she could feel his love for her as a palpable thing, a mighty presence reaching out from his Anima, comforting her, filling her with a sense of his power, a glimpse of the terrifying might of the elder Lunar Exalt. She could feel his unspoken reassurance, that Xander would be rescued, that she was not going to lose her friend, not on his watch, and Buffy believed him. She couldn't imagine the power it would take to fight Angel, to force him to back down. She didn't have it, Giles didn't have it, she didn't think anyone had it. Calmed and reassured, Buffy forced her thoughts away from how Xander might be suffering, and onto her preparations for the battle.

The Day Caste Abyssal, according to Angel's informants, was specialized in Unnatural Mental Influence and a method of fighting called Laughing Wounds Style. Angel said he didn't think she was in danger from the mental assaults, but the physical combat would be grueling. He told her to take care of any vampires they might encounter, but to leave the Abyssal to him. He assured her that he was well-versed in his own martial arts, and that he'd killed the previous Day Caste in Vietnam, so he was familiar with their abilities. He'd also cautioned her about a powerful blond vampiress called Darla. Darla was an adept student of mortal martial arts, and powerful in her own abilities as a vampire. Darla could use a form of dodging that let her turn into a shadowy mist, completely evading any ability so long as she was fighting for something she felt was important to her goals, whatever they may be. This in addition to the ability to grow shadowy claws, superhuman speed and reflexes, vampiric sense Charms and deadly fangs. Buffy knew she should utilize brute force to overpower Darla's skill advantage; as powerful as the vampiress was, she was no match for a Solar Exalted. Buffy mentally cataloged the abilities taught to her by Giles, months ago. Fists of Iron Technique, Spirit Strengthens the Skin, Sledgehammer Fist Blow-

The car stopped suddenly and with a vaguely disconcerting lack of movement or jostling. Buffy broke out of her reverie to look around the area. There was no grass growing in the abandoned field they'd pulled into, nothing but dirt and long dead trees. Angel wordlessly stepped out of the car, still glowing brightly, and Buffy followed suit, her own Caste Mark flaring into view as she proclaimed to the universe that no longer was her skin mortal flesh, nor her muscle made of tissue, she declared, by the authority of The Unconquered Sun, that she was forged of strongest steel and that mere mortal blows were not enough to pierce her defenses. Essence flared as her skin strengthened, armoring her proof against arrows and bullets, against sword and axe, against all but the fiercest blows of the Exalted.

Angel's Anima flared again, and Buffy knew he was similarly armoring himself.

“So, where are they?” Buffy asked, searching for any sign of...well, anything, but finding none. Angel didn't answer for a moment, and Buffy knew he was searching for any sign of their foes.

“I-” he began, but a sudden, terrible presence decended on Buffy's shoulders, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Something ancient and terrible was here, something older than she could imagine. She saw, in a brief unconscious flash of images, millenia of death of old age, gravestones in their billions eroding and succumbing to the ravages of time, she saw stars growing dim and imploding as the eons depleted their fuel sources, she saw the gods themselves wasting away without their followers to believe in them, she saw the heat death of the universe as all fell into entropy and a singular, black nothingness, with one single being remaining, as it watched the last proton wink out of existence, and she knew that the messenger of this vast power was here, and she nearly quailed before the presence, before-

Impossibly bright light, shining from the nothingness, perfection incarnate, that which will never decay, never die, shining eternal in the night, a Shard of Celestial Power, eternal and unending-

“It's about time you arrived,” came a reproachful voice from the shadows, even as Buffy stood tall against that ancient presence, defying the inexorable march towards oblivion as only the Chosen of the Sun could do, and all was made clear again.

She was Perfection Incarnate.

“Sorry we're late,” came Angel's return, and Buffy smiled as she felt power flowing through her, raising her tall above her foes, perfect grace pouring into her limbs, and she knew she would succeed this day.

“The entrance to the pit is over to the left, a hole covered with branches. There are about fifty vampires down there, along with the Day Caste, and perhaps a dozen mortal prisoners. I don't think Xander has been harmed, yet. I think he's being saved, but I'm not sure. They almost caught me earlier, and I had to flee back out here.”

“We'll save him,” Buffy said firmly, and Angel nodded.

“Yes,” he said, “we will. But we need to hurry.”

Suddenly, the presence receded, and a humanoid shape appeared before them, covered in shadow, hiding its face.

“I agree,” the shape said, and Buffy couldn't place the voice. It was just...a voice. No accent, no indicator for male or female, just...words, “Now follow me.”

The shadowy figure walked ahead, and Buffy and Angel followed until it reaches a small patch of grass and twigs. The shadow jumped onto the patch, and vanished. Buffy blinked, and Angel reached out and squeezed her hand.

“This'll be tough,” he warned softly, “But you're a Solar. And I'm your Lunar Mate. There's gonna be a lot of bad stuff down there, but just remember: We're the Chosen of the Gods. This is literally what we were born to do. You'll be fine, as long as you keep your head.”

Buffy nodded, and a determined look fixed itself on her face. She returned Angel's grip, and then both Ascendant Sun and Burning Moon stepped forward, and fell into the darkness.

–Xander–

It seemed like he had spent an eternity hanging suspended in his chains, cold piercing through him, sapping his energy and yet making sleep impossible at the same time. It had gotten to the point that thinking was just too difficult, and he wondered if he was dead. He was dimly aware of voices around him, and then of movement. Weight on his limbs started to fade, and he felt strength beginning to return to his limbs, and realized that the darkness in his vision was fading, and things were becoming clearer.

He realized after a moment that he was being dragged along a cold marble hallway by chains binding his arms. He tried to reorient himself, but the cold was still present in his mind, even as warmth began to return. He mumbled something unintelligible, and something near him laughed. Words he couldn't make out were spoken in taunting tones, and he decided to be quiet. Something in his mind was telling him to conserve his strength. Something bad was going to happen soon, he could feel it.

Finally, after what might have been an hour and might have been a few seconds, the dragging ceased. Strong arms pulled him off of the floor and pushed him against a cold stone slab. His arms were pushed up and he felt cold steel click into place around his wrists, and then around his legs. He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs, and could barely make out words being said by his captors.

“-inject him-wake him up a bit-”

“-is that safe-”

“-if he can't scream, we'll be the ones-”

“-fine, fine-”

A sharp pain in his arm brought him further back into reality, and a hot, burning warmth began to rush through him, painful but welcome after the eternity of cold, and the cobwebs were quickly burnt from his mind, the darkness removed from his vision, and nearly vomited as a sickening stench of blood and fear hit his nostrils. He looked up, and nearly fainted in sheer terror as he took in the sight before him.

Two vampires were standing in front of him, their leering demonic faces horrible enough, but they were a mere sideshow compared to the rest of what he was seeing.

He was in a dark room, maybe three times the size of his parent's basement. The only light in the room came from a burning coal-pit in the middle of the room, just behind the vampires, and the glowing orange light illuminated a scene from his darkest nightmares. There were several long tables, each one covered with various blades, whips, and instruments of torture. He saw a rack on one side of the room, as well as an Iron Maiden, and a weird bull-looking statue near what looked like a furnace. The walls were lined with various blunt, unpleasant looking instruments, and bloodstains covered the floor and walls, leading to a small drain in the floor. He could make out a set of power tools on the floor beneath one of the tables, as well as what looked like a cup of clear liquid that Xander really hoped was just water.

Just then, the door at the far end of the room opened, and the dark haired beauty from before walked into the room, carrying an air of pain and horror along with her. The vampires made a hasty exit, and Xander was left alone with the madwoman.

She didn't seem to notice him as she examined the various devices on the tables, humming a little tune as she picked up a large dagger, examined it, and placed it carefully back down. Xander waited in terrified anxiety, dreading the pain to come.

Finally, the woman picked up a small, black handled metal rod, and pressed a button on the bottom. He watched in horror as it began to slowly glow red hot. Still humming, with a happy little smile, she reached out with a fingernail and absently slashed open his shirt. Xander was frozen in fear as her watched the glowing metal draw closer and closer to his right nipple.

Then she flipped the device in her hand and stabbed it deep into his right thigh.

His screams echoed throughout the chamber as the stench of burning flesh filled his nostrils and he thrashed against his restraints, howling in primal agony as his torturer laughed in delight, and Xander couldn't believe that something could hurt this much-

–Willow–

Willow carefully drove along the evening roads, anxiously wondering if she should be ignoring the speed limits. She had gotten her learner's permit some six months prior, and had been practicing her driving with her mother, but she was technically allowed to drive, and she knew if she died in a crash, the Angel would never get the information. Still, she thought as she turned into the main roads, it was an emergency, and if she was too late, then information wouldn't be helpful for anyone-

Her world exploded in noise and glass and movement as an SUV plowed into the passenger side of Willow's mother's minivan and Willow knew no more.

–???–

“Well,” a voice echoed through the darkness, “That's just plain unlucky.”

“Yes, especially since she's the one who'll-

“Yes, yes, I know.”

“You could Exalt her.”

“She wouldn't accept, even to avoid death.”

“Then, may I?”



“Fine. Somehow, though, I think that you may have planned this.”

“My love, would I really do such a thing?”

“Yes.”

“Touche.”

A pause.

“Alright, she'll live.”

“She'd better.”

–Voice–

Silently, he moved through the dark, marble floored halls of the hidden cave. He knew this place of shadow and evil, and he knew the forces making it their own. This did nothing to halt his advance as he strode through the ranks of vampires, an unnoticed shadow to their perception, even as he stabbed out with his ironwood stake, leaving explosions of dust in his wake. Shouts of panic followed his path, as the abominations sought that which was slaying them, but none would find him. He was the master of his Fate, and theirs as well. He willed that he would not be seen, and so he remained unnoticed. He told the world that he was immaterial to these creatures of shadow, and so he phased through them, pausing only to pass his stake through their hearts.

A sense of terrible purpose filled these unholy halls in his wake, the presence of one who is the Herald of Endings, bringing that most terrible force of entropy and death to these deathless creatures. Shadows could be driven by the Light of the Sun, the Sun could be drowned beneath overwhelming Terrestrial power, which could in turn die by the Moon, who could only shine so long as there was a Sun to illuminate it, Battles could be lost, Serenity disrupted, Secrets revealed, Journeys would eventually come to a close, but one fact would always hold true:

All things must End in Time. Nothing was eternal, nothing could defy the ravages of age forever. Terrestrials, Solars, Lunars, Sidereals, Infernals and even Abyssals would eventually succumb to the nothingness of oblivion at the end of time. But after all of those forces were gone, there would remain one last being to End the Ending Itself.

He served that power. He was the Chosen of Endings, and his very presence brought low the Mighty under the Weight of Infinity. These abominations believed themselves deathless, immune to the power of Endings. He would prove them wrong. No wall would bar time itself, no defense was proof against Eternity. He was Entropy Incarnate, and he would not be denied.

He would End these monstrous things hat sought to hasten the world's Fate. He would rescue the Solar's friend, for the boy was important. He had seen his Fate, and knew that he could not allow the child to die this day. His End was not yet at hand.

–Buffy–

Buffy had to admit, there was something deeply satisfying about killing these things. They threw themselves at her, and their blows broke upon her skin. She saw one readying a crossbow, and allowed the bolt to shatter against her skull, leaving only a bruise in return. In a blur of movement, she closed with the bowman and drove her fist into its chest, punching its heart out the other side of its body and killing it in a burst of dust.

Beside her, Angel was slashing out with silvery claws extending from his fingers, tearing through the hearts of the creatures and reducing them to dust. It was the effort of perhaps ten seconds to kill all fifteen vampires in the room they'd appeared in. Once the monsters were all dead, Buffy took the time to get a glimpse of her surroundings.

It certainly didn't look like they were in a cave. The ceiling extended up easily three or four stories, almost like the roof of a large church. The floor and walls were made of white marble, and pews of black wood were lined in twin rows of fifty, leading up to the platform that she and Angel had materialized on. There were large double-doors on both sides and the end of the room, and Buffy was certain that this was some sort of demonic church.

Angel suddenly jerked his head, looking towards the leftmost doors, an expression of panic on his face.

“Angel, what-” she began to ask, but he grabbed her and everything blurred as he ran through the doors and down a massive white hallway.

“I just heard Xander screaming,” he said shortly, “From this direction. We've got to hurry-”

And then Buffy was thrown forward, bouncing harmlessly along the cold, hard floor for a few yards before catching herself and jumping up. Angel was already standing up from where he'd tripped, and was glaring at the cause of the accident.

A young blond woman dressed in a dark dress returned his glare with a pleasant smile, stepping towards him.

“Hello, Angelus,” she greeted, “It's so nice to see you-”

Angel blurred and the woman didn't even have time to scream before he tore her head from her shoulders and reduced her to a pile of dust.

“Who-” Buffy began, but Angel cut her off.

“Darla,” he said flatly, and Buffy nodded. She was beginning to realize that there was a lot more to Angel than he had told her, and she resolved to ask him about Darla later. For now, though, Xander took precedence.

–Voice–

He moved swiftly through the now empty halls. He smiled slightly as he passed through the dusty halls left by Buffy and Angel. It was unfortunate that they'd arrived so far apart, but he supposed it had worked out. After all, he'd been able to clear the rearguard vampires down in the main torture chambers, and this way Buffy didn't risk a breakdown. That had been a great concern of his for a long while, and it had grown to a truly distracting issue tonight. If Xander had been tortured already, they risked a great deal if it caused Buffy to break. The girl was still young, and he was certain that her primary Flaw fell under her empathy for others, and a catatonic Solar was an immense liability on the battlefield-

Suddenly, something struck him in the gut and sent him flipping over as though he'd ran into an iron bar at high speeds on a cartoon. He landed on his back, hard, and he felt a truly terrifying presence approach, a monstrous aura promising death and pain, and he heard footsteps approach.

“Well, well, well, I'll be a son of a gun!” a deeply southern voice declared affably, as though it had unexpectedly met an old and dear friend at the grocery store, “If it isn't a Chosen of Endings! It's been awhile since I killed one of you fellas'!”

He suddenly appeared on his feet, preparing to face his opponent, but a vicious right hook sent him flying into the wall with a crash. He fell limply to the floor, cracking his head on the marble and sending stars bursting behind his eyes. He groaned as black light filled the halls. Of course. The Dusk was here.

–Angel–

Angel moved with great speed, and it took only moments to cover nearly a mile of hallways. Xander's agonized screams grew louder as they neared their destination, and he could feel Buffy's mixed grief and hatred, emanating through her Essence and nearly overwhelming his senses. He couldn't blame her. She remained still and focused, though, and finally they arrived outside of a black steel door, deep within the structure, behind which Xander was still screaming. Buffy leapt from his arms as soon as he stopped, and he marveled at the power of her kick, which tore the soul-steel door from its hinges and sent it crashing into the room. A powerful, hideous stench met both of their noses, and he saw Buffy retch.

The smell was of burning flesh and spilled blood, of sweat and pain and fear, and it was overpowering. Angel ran into the room after Buffy, and nearly vomited.

Xander was thrashing madly against the stone slab he was chained to while a woman held a glowing brand to his chest. Numerous deep knife wounds were cut into his chest and arms, and Angel could see a horribly burnt wound on his leg that looked like someone had stabbed him with a soldering iron. The woman turned to face him and Buffy, a mad grin on her face, and Angel's heart stopped.

She'd changed quite a bit, he absently noticed. Not outwardly, she was still the pale raven-haired beauty Angelus had been so enamored with, but inwardly, he could feel the darkness pulsing out from her soul. Gone, too, were her conservative Victorian clothes, replaced with a dark, revealing leather bondage outfit. Gone was the fragile, delicate beauty of Drusilla Keeble, replaced with a darkly radiant creature of terrible power and infinite cruelty. Angel knew that, if Angelus could see her now, he'd have fallen in love in a heartbeat.

“Daddy!” the Abyssal Exalt, for that was surely what his once-child had become, exclaimed delightedly, “You've come to visit me! Could you hear the darkness calling, calling out in song? I could, and so could Grandmummy. She came to visit, and we had such fun, daddy!”

“Drusilla,” he greeted softly, and noticed out of the corner of his eye that Buffy was staring at Drusilla with a hate he hadn't seen in those green eyes since the days of the Terrestrial War. An ancient terror crept up his spine as he remembered out often it had been directed at him.

“I'm going to kill you,” she stated flatly, trembling with rage, “I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!”

“Uh-oh,” Drusilla grinned, “Daddy's new baby bird is angry with me. Won't you help me, Daddy?”

“I should have sought you out a long time ago, Dru,” Angel sighed, “I should have killed you long before this. It was a mistake to allow you to live this lone. I'm here to rectify that mistake.”

“Angel, how the hell do you know this bitch?” Buffy demanded, watching the exchange with mounting confusion, clenching and unclenching her hands in anticipation of the fight to come.

“She's my...daughter, I suppose would be the term,” Angel replied, stepping to the side, ever so slightly, preparing to grab one of the daggers and reshape it into a worthy weapon. He really wished he had remembered to get his Daiklave-

Buffy blurred and suddenly Drusilla was thrown through the door behind him, and Buffy was in front of Xander, tearing apart his restraints with her bare hands. Drusilla rushed back into the room, mad rage in her eyes, but Angel caught his wayward daughter by the hair and bashed her head into the stone wall of the torture chamber with all of his might. Pain exploded in his gut, and a massively powerful blow knocked him over the table of torture instruments, a soul-steel dagger stuck in his stomach, and Drusilla rushing at him, blood flowing down her arms and solidifying into rusty chains tipped with viciously hooked blades. One that would have take off his head passed through empty space, and he was suddenly behind Drusilla, dagger torn from his stomach and stabbing down into her back.

The Abyssal howled in pain and spun around, striking his chest with her open palm, and he was sent flying across the torture room, black lightning crackling through his body, lighting up his nervous system with pure agony. He struck the stone wall with a resounding crash, leaving a man-sized dent in the granite. He dropped effortlessly to his feet, and saw Drusilla charge him, only for Buffy to seemingly materialize behind her, catching her by the foot and slamming the Abyssal into one of the tables, smashing the mahogany into splinters. Buffy then grabbed the Day Caste by the hair and dragged her bodily over to the coal-pit. Angel winced as Buffy shoved Drusilla's face into the blazing charcoal, the Solar snarling hatefully as the Abyssal thrashed and howled in agony. His child's spiked heel lashed out at Buffy, tearing a hole in her shirt and snapping off on her stomach.

With a curse, Buffy stamped her foot on Drusilla's ankle in response, and a loud snap echoed through the room as Buffy shattered the bone, and proceeded to grind the Abyssal's foot into the floor. Angel grabbed a fallen butcher's knife and ran his hand over it. The blade extended and shifted into a double-edged broadsword, and Angel strode towards his Solar Mate. He didn't want to risk Drusilla managing to get a lucky shot while Buffy was burning her face off, and lined up the angle he'd need to strike the former vampiress' head from her shoulders. Then, a terrible presence appeared just outside the room, and the hairs on Angel's neck stood up. This wasn't the Voice, this was something else.

“Well, isn't this rude! I do believe y'all started the party without me!” came an indignant voice from the door, and Angel caught his first glimpse of the newcomer.

He was an adult male, perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties, dressed in a black preacher's frock. His voice had a very Southern accent, and despite the amiable tone in his voice, Angel could see the fires of true madness burning in the eyes of this newcomer. Short, brown hair, was smoothly combed and, like the preacher's face, was covered in blood. Black unlight shone from the Caste Mark of Dusk that was pronounced on the man's forehead.

Buffy looked up from Drusilla with an annoyed expression. She picked up the Abyssal, and Angel turned away from the burning, grinning skull that was once a beautiful face, and a loud crack echoed through the room as Buffy snapped Drusilla's neck. The Day Caste fell to the ground, and Buffy stamped hard onto the woman's back, shattering her spine for good measure. Angel caught a glimpse of Xander hiding beneath one of the tables, and mentally wondered where the hell the Voice was.

“So, I'm guessing you're an Abyssal-whatsit as well, right?” Buffy asked with feigned nonchalance, but Angel could hear the tremble of rage in her voice, and readied himself to leap to her aid as soon as possible. He had no idea how powerful this Dusk Caste was, and didn't want to start the fight until he did. He did know that at least one of the Abyssals had Exalted during the American Civil War, and he prayed that it wasn't this one. If it was, he honestly didn't know if they could prevail.

“Right in one, little lady,” the Dusk Caste confirmed cheerfully, grinning madly, “I'm The Forgotten Disciple of Endless Depths, and normally that's what people call me, if they know what's good for 'em,” the grin grew wider, and Angel realized that they were dealing, not just with a madman, but with a zealot, and his weariness grew, “But, heck, I like you, little lady, so y'all can call me Caleb.”

“Well, Caleb,” Buffy smiled faux-sweetly, “I like you too, so I'm gonna let you decide how you're gonna die. I've got a few options running through my head, see, and I'm open to suggestions if you've got any preferences. See, I'm thinking of just tearing you limb from fucking limb, but I'm also open to crushing your balls into spermy white paste with my bare hands and then ripping your dick off and making you eat it while you bleed to death. Or,” Buffy reached out and called Drusilla's still-glowing brand to her outstretched right hand, “I could jam this little beauty up your ass and fuck you to death with it. Really, I'm very flexible with this.”

Angel's apprehension grew as Caleb started laughing.

“Oh, you are a little spitfire, ain't 'cha!” he exclaimed, “I'm gonna enjoy my time with you, little lady-”

A figure suddenly appeared behind Caleb and punched the Abyssal right in the kidneys. Angel caught a glimpse of a dark blue suit, stained with blood before the figure blurred and kicked Caleb's right knee out from under him, in a very literal sense. Caleb's knee went flying into the stone slab at the back of the room in a spurt of blood, and Caleb's lower leg dropped away from his body. A backhand sent Caleb's lower jaw bursting out of his mouth and flying into the granite wall with a sickening squelching noise. A punch to the gut and a hideous squishing noise told Angel that Caleb's intestines had just been pulped.

The injured preacher hopped back with impossible and vaguely humorous speed and grabbed the fallen Drusilla's body, and, in a flash of unlight, both Abyssal Exalted vanished. Angel watched in stunned silence as the man who'd just defeated a powerful Celestial Exalted calmly walked over to where Xander had been laying in agony, and kicked the boy with all of his might. Buffy began to shout in anger, but stopped as the intent behind the action became clear.

In a blur of healing power, Xander's injuries healed themselves, burns fading to pale red skin, cuts sowing themselves shut and bruises vanishing before their eyes. In moments, Xander was fully healed, and a gesture from his healer sent the teen into blessed unconsciousness. The man turned to face Buffy and Angel, and for the first time, Angel looked upon the face of the Voice.

He looked young, but for Exalts appearances were almost always deceiving. A dark, torn and bloody blue suit that wouldn't be out of place on a senior accountant adorned a slim, fit form. Dark eyes look out from a pale, clean-shaven face. Perfectly-brushed black hair was ready for a day at the office, and by no means did this man look like someone who had just crippled the Dusk Caste Abyssal.

“My apologies for my tardiness,” a cultured British accent spoke, completely at odds with the middle-American accent Angel had been imagining for the Voice, “but the Dusk Caste severely injured me earlier and I was forced to take some time to heal myself before I could come to your aid.”

“Not to be ungrateful, but who are you, and how the hell did you do that?!” Buffy asked/demanded in confusion.

The man didn't appear upset by Buffy's bluntness, and smiled as he answered.

“Ah, yes, forgive me,” the man apologized, “I am Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Rogue Sidereal Exalted and Chosen of the Maiden of Endings. It is truly a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Summers.”

“Wait, you're one of Giles' friends?” she asked, surprised, and Angel saw how Wesley's smile suddenly became forced.

“You'll notice that I said rogue Sidereal Exalted,” he corrected firmly, “And, no, Rip-I mean, Giles is no friend of mine, I'm afraid.”

Buffy nodded, and suddenly swayed and staggered forward. Wesley's eyes widened in alarm as Angel caught his Solar Mate and steadied her. He could feel the exhaustion radiating off of her, and he realized that she had finally burnt through her last reserves of power.

“Wesley, I know we need to talk,” Angel began quietly, “but this probably isn't the best time or place. I need to get her home, and the kid to a hospital-”

“Allow me to take care of him,” Wesley interjected suddenly, “I have...friends who specialize in treating injuries such as his.” Angel nodded at that. Whatever else they might be, Sidereals were very adept at weeding out trauma and twisting it into whatever they needed it to be. And if Angel was correct about the group that this Sidereal likely served, what they needed from Xander's trauma was a happy, grateful Dawn Caste Solar.

“Alright, take care of him,” Angel said, with an undercurrent of warning. His message didn't need to be heard by Buffy right now, and he knew that the Chosen of Endings would understand.

“We will,” Wesley promised seriously, and walked over to the fallen teen, picked him up with casual ease, and then vanished.

Angel lifted Buffy up in his arms as though she was a child, smiling slightly as she wrapped her arms around his shoulder.

“Your place,” the teen muttered tiredly, “Don't wanna sleep alone.”

Angel could empathize with that. With a murmured confirmation, he summoned what little remained of his Essence reserves and blurred with speed as he raced back towards the exit to the cavern.

–???–

A shadowy figure wandered the halls where the Abyssal Exalts had been living, looking over the ruined walls, the murals defaced by bloody images carved in the Deathlords' glory, the beautiful silence forever disrupted by the vicious battle that had taken place here.

“They trashed my house.” a shadowy echo stated flatly.

“They trashed my fucking house.”

“I am going to kill them!”




–End Chapter–

Questions? Comments? Concerns?

Also: I know tons of important questions abound, but this is where the plot really starts to take off.
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