Smiling at Pindar across the table (who’d also right away insisted she use his first name), the young woman told him, “In case we weren’t introduced last night, I’m Dawn Summers. I grew up in California, but now I’m a graduate student at Oxford, specializing in ancient languages. I also do translating work in England for the New Council there, which was once called the Watchers’ Council. This historical institute spent centuries collecting books, manuscripts, scrolls, and anything else they could find about the occult and supernatural.”
Dawn paused then, to carefully eye her interested audience. At last satisfied this pair of elderly siblings were indeed buying the standard explanation given out to the unknowing public about an organization which secretly protected humanity from the all-too-real monsters lurking in the night, she went on with her false account.
“We're not sure just why or when the Council started. Since we can trace it as far back as the late Middle Ages, it probably had something to do with the usual excessive level of superstition most people had back then about witches, magic, and demons. Anyway, a bunch of minor French nobles got together and started their own secret society. A couple decades later, the whole thing moved to London, and it’s stayed there ever since. Some of the families from France came along and those who were interested in looking after and adding to the growing assortment of records in their library kept the Council going.”
Shrugging, Dawn told the fascinated listeners seated across from her at their table, “It went on like that for maybe five hundred years straight. About several dozen people at a time, descended from the founders, ran the private library. They quietly bought any new works about ghoulies, ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties. Not just that, they also traveled the whole world to discreetly acquire anything else they could get their hands on about the really old legends and myths. It eventually wound up with the Council anonymously owning one of the best and most extensive written collections about strange and creepy stuff that nobody believes in anymore.”
Unsure about just why they were hearing this but still quite intrigued regardless, Pindar asked thoughtfully, “Was there a bona fide basis as to why all the secrecy for the, what’d you call it, the Council?”
“Tradition, mostly,” replied Dawn, who went on to add, “But that probably came with good reason from when they first started collecting early in the fourteenth century. There was actual justification at the time for keeping their interest in the supernatural as quiet as possible. From what scraps of records they left which we have, the nobles in the society meant to use this knowledge to safeguard themselves from witchcraft and magical curses. That’s the most logical explanation, given how everyone then sincerely believed those imaginary horrors to be real and dangerous to them. However, if the French church or their rivals in the aristocracy ever found out about this, it would’ve quickly turned into accusations those in the secret society were buying the stuff for their own evil purposes. That kind of thing was a regular scandal in the European royal courts around then, in any case.”
Minnehaha uncertainly nodded in understanding, before pointing out, “I still don’t see how this has to do with you being here, Dawn.”
The addressed girl smiled again at her new friends. Dawn assured them both, “Oh, I’m getting to that. Now, let’s see, where was I… Right, the Council was peacefully going around its business for generations, keeping it all in the family meanwhile. About, oddly enough, the time when you were born,” (Dawn good-naturedly pointed with her chin at Pindar, who grinned in acknowledgement), “rumors eventually got out among those who had an interest in such things, about the Council and what it owned in its vast library. Other scholars, researchers, and the just plain curious started asking to take a look, pretty please. The Council wasn’t included to do it, and they turned down flat most requests. Still, every once in a while, usually when the petitioner had something the Council wanted and was willing to trade for access, the records got opened for them. That went on for another century, until just a few years ago, it went terribly wrong.”
Pindar and Minnehaha then watched across the porch table their guest who’d been happily narrating her remarkable story abruptly turn somber, both in mood and expression. Miss Summers next dejectedly informed her listeners, “For their own twisted reasons based on hate and fear, a fundamentalist sect sneaked a bomb into the Council’s London headquarters and set it off. Apparently, they wanted to destroy all those unholy writings and their sinful guardians.”
“Oh, my!” breathed Minnehaha, turning pale during this shocked exclamation.
Pindar sat up straight in his chair at the same time, looking equally horrified. He studied Dawn’s sorrowful face, to then hesitantly ask, “Ah, pardon me, but may we know how this affected you? Did you lose anybody--?”
“No, no!” Dawn briskly shook her head. She reassured the concerned pair, “Like I said, it happened years ago, long before I started working at the New Council. But, I already knew someone from there, back when it was called the Watchers’ Council. He’s my boss now, but when I first met him, Rupert Giles from England was the librarian at my high school. Over time, he turned into a very close friend of our family, so when Giles -- that’s what we call him -- went back home to rebuild the Council, my sister and I kept in touch.”
Perking up at this new information, Minnehaha inquired, “Your sister? What’s her name?”
Dawn opened her mouth, and then she hastily shut it, but not before giving the elderly woman waiting for her to speak a considering glance. Soon coming to a decision, a wryly smiling girl then declared, “She’s kind of sensitive about it, which is only natural when you’re called Buffy Summers.”
“What’s so odd about that?” requested a puzzled man possessing his own rather out of the ordinary personal name. His sister, who bore the designation of a poet’s fictional Native American woman, nodded in shared concurrence.
“Nothing,” managed Dawn, just barely suppressing an attack of the giggles. Her stifled humor was due to finally finding people who would take for granted a certain Senior Slayer’s name. Even at present among the worldwide army of Watchers and Slayers, Buffy still occasionally had problems over being taken seriously after first-time introductions. Afterwards, Dawn was usually the one who had to listen to her older sibling’s grouchy complaints about this.
Rapidly bringing herself back under control, Dawn began once more with a more serious mien. “Anyway, Buffy went over to England from California, helping Giles set up what they thought was the best use now for most of the New Council’s funds. They started schools for young women in lots of countries where they’re needed -- Africa, Asia, South America -- but here and in Europe, too. Some of my hometown friends, who’ve also known Giles for years, are a part of this. In between, we pitch in when we can about the original purpose of the Council, collecting supernatural stuff to replace what didn’t survive.”
“I thought you said the, er, bomb destroyed everything,” frowned Minnehaha regarding this distasteful subject.
Dawn glumly shrugged her shoulders before answering, “Nobody who was in there lived. The whole building came down, crushing the contents which weren’t already burned or blown to shreds. Only the lowest sub-basement remained mostly intact, but the books in there still got extensively damaged from water and smoke. After spending months recovering and sorting it all out, about ten to fifteen percent was salvageable. However…
At this last emphasized word, Dawn lifted high an extended index finger to capture her audience’s attention. “Giles, and some of the surviving members of the Watchers’ Council who’d been away at the time, heard gossip over the years that the really valuable stuff, plus copies of what they had back then, were moved out of London around 1940, just before the Germans started the airplane attacks which would be called the Blitz. All this was stored somewhere safe in England during the whole war. Afterwards, the Senior Archivist then who was in charge of it all decided to leave most of the material at the hidden location. If they ever needed it again, this could be collected in due time. Until then, their records would continue to be protected at wherever they were kept. Just exactly like they still were when those unaware jerks blew up the Council‘s London headquarters.”
Dawn finished her final statement by slumping back in her chair, crossing her arms, and sighing heavily, all in presumed despair. As for themselves, Pindar and Minnehaha traded baffled glances, before the man beat out his sister by asking, “What’s the matter, Dawn? It sounds like good news for the Council--”
“Yeah, well, the big problem is, nobody knows where to find
the stuff,” Dawn muttered.
She sardonically gazed at where two elderly people were gaping back at her over the table, before explaining, “The current Senior Archivist -- not the one I told you about but his successor -- he died in the building. So did all his assistants, and anyone else who might’ve known the exact location of the Council’s cache. It wasn’t something which was general knowledge, anyway. Maybe limited to, at the most, only a couple of people. Plus, even if the Senior Archivist foresaw something like being hit by a bus and wrote down the location for whoever took over from him, where’d you think he put this secret in the first place?”
Minnehaha cautiously ventured, “Ah, locked away somewhere in his office…? Oh, dear.”
Dawn sadly nodded. “Anything in there got totally destroyed, and however hard we looked around at his home and everywhere else we could think of, we came up with zilch. Since then, most of us stopped trying to find the records, being too busy with our own lives and our regular work for the Council.”
Reaching out for her glass of elderberry wine, Dawn took a thankful sip to relieve her parched throat from talking so long. She gazed down at the remaining black liquid in her glass, taking a reflective moment to think about how even Willow had been unable to use her immense powers to find the Council’s missing records. After several frustrating weeks of total failure, the Red Witch regretfully informed the Giles and the rest of the Scoobies that the former Watchers’ Council must’ve set up some really powerful protective wards to conceal and guard their prized collection from any possible magical thief out to lay their hands upon some of the most potent grimoires and other spellbooks in existence. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t any way to get through these wards with the Wiccan’s own scanning spells, despite searching the entire British Isles with these. If Willow ever learned the precise location by mundane instead of magical means, down to the nearest hundred feet or so, she’d have no trouble whatsoever finding the place and breaking through the wards to recover the Council’s lost treasures. But until then, the Sunnydale redhead would pass on trudging by foot alone over every square inch of the country, thank you very much.
Dawn’s introspection was interrupted by Pindar pointing out, “That was all very interesting, young lady. Though, I fail to see what this has to do with you dropping in on us last night, wet clothing and all.”
A cheerful smirk brightened the Key’s face as she put her glass back down on the table, to further beam towards Minnehaha and her brother. She enthusiastically informed them both, “Oh, there’s definitely a good reason! See, just about the only clue we ever discovered as to where the old Council hid their collection is that the place itself was found by the man who’d be the Senior Archivist a decade or so later in 1880. We don’t know anything else about the site -- where it is, how big it might be, and so on. But around 1870, a guy named Thaddeus Ballard stumbled onto it, and well afterwards, he told the rest of the Council that it’d be a fine spot to store important stuff in the future. That seemed to be the end of it, until I came up with my bright idea.”
Proudly sitting up in her chair, Dawn boasted, “The whole point about the Ballard guy is that he might not have thought at first his interesting discovery was important enough to keep quiet about. Not until years later, anyway. In the meantime, there’s always the possibility he could’ve told other people like the Council, his friends, and most important, his family.”
A very gloating expression appeared on Dawn’s features while she further congratulated herself, “It took me months
of searching everywhere in dusty files and books to find out Mr. Ballard of the Watchers’ Council had written a chatty note to his cousin in Hong Kong, adding to this an actual sketch of the noteworthy place he’d found during a recent trek through the Scottish hinterlands. Perhaps when she and her new husband could arrange a visit someday back home, he’d be quite pleased to tell Mr. and Mrs. Chater more about this in person.”
Minnehaha Cheever then blurted out, “Why, Judge Chater’s vacation house is just down the row!”