The Mark of Eyghon, part II
A/N: Disclaimer, author’s notes, etc., are at the beginning of chapter 1; spoilers are through “The Dark Age”.
Rupert made an attempt to sound meek, as he checked, “Why?”
The detective insisted, “There was a homicide on the school campus last night. The victim had no ID, but he was carryin’ this slip of paper with yer name and address on it.” He held up a plastic bag with a piece of paper in it.
Rupert was suddenly seized with a feeling of dread. If the deceased had his address, why would he have been on the school grounds at night? Unless he knew Rupert Giles was more than a mere librarian… He set his briefcase down and tried to sound confused. “My name?”
And then, because things hadn’t been grim enough, Cordelia Chase stormed into the library. “First, I’m sentenced to a computer tutorial on Saturday, now I have to read some computer book. There are books on computers? Isn’t the whole point of computers to get rid of books?”
Before she could begin yet another ill-informed, self-centered rant, Giles frowned, “Cordelia, I’m a little busy right now.” He pointed at the police, expecting Miss Chase to leave.
Instead, she brightened up and strode confidently up to the detective. “Can you help me with a ticket? It’s totally bogus. It was a one-way street. I was going one way.”
While the detective seemed taken aback by the mere effrontery of the girl, Giles knew what to do. “Cordelia!”
She looked at him as if he were a field hand who had just tracked mud through the royal ballroom. “What?! Why does everyone always yell my name? I’m not deaf! And I can take a hint…” She paused and checked, “What’s the hint?”
He manfully managed not to sigh. “To come back later.”
She snapped, “Yeah. When you’ve visited decaf land!”
Giles watched her storm out and then asked, “Where do you want me to go?” Right then, almost anything sounded better than being in a library full of California high schoolers.
Unfortunately, the ‘where’ turned out to be the city morgue. He stood aside as the city coroner opened one of the body storage doors and slid out the drawer.
An attendant asked, “Have you had your breakfast yet?”
Rupert shook his head and lied, “No.”
“That was probably a good idea.” He pulled back the sheet to reveal a corpse. A body Rupert recognized at once. The body was bruised all over, with especially dark bruises around the throat, as if he had been choked to death. Rupert knew enough about demon and vampire attacks to recognize that the handprints were human-sized.
Detective Winslow growled, “D’you know him?”
Rupert whispered, “Yes. I… I mean, I did. His name’s Philip Henry. He was a friend of mine in London. I… I haven’t spoken to him in twenty years.” He wasn’t about to admit why he hadn’t spoken to Philip in so long.
But Detective Winslow wasn’t about to drop it. “Can you think of any reason why he might’ve wanted to contact you?”
Giles was expecting the question, and he easily lied, “No.” Unfortunately, that was when he spotted the distinctive tattoo. It was exactly where he knew it would be, on Philip’s right arm near the inside elbow. He heard the detective ask him if he knew what the tattoo was, and he managed to croak out another lie. “No. No, I don’t.”
Buffy frowned as she left the hospital parking lot and stalked off into the night. It was bad enough Angel had to rush off, but Giles hadn’t ever showed up. And Giles not being where he said he would at the exact time he said he would was like… like two non-mixy things being mixed together.
She didn’t like how that sounded, even in her head. But there were a lot of things she didn’t like how they sounded. Like how she couldn’t seem to pick up demon names. Giles would say the name, and Willow would get them right off. Even Xander would get them pretty fast. Only stupid old Buffy Summers had trouble hearing the names and remembering them right. It was bad enough she never had time to study for exams or do homework – not that she wanted to do homework and study for exams – but how were Slayers supposed to do their job and still have a life?
Okay, she knew the real answer to that one. Willow had peeked in some of the Watcher diaries that Giles kept hidden away in the drawers in his desk, after Xander had managed to pick the lock, which he refused to tell how he knew how to do. Slayers didn’t get to have a life. They spent all night hunting down vampires and demons and other nasties, then after some sleep, they spent all day doing research and training and making weapons.
Tough beans. She was going to have a life, and she was going to be normal, and she wasn’t going to get killed by some lame vampire.
Okay, so she’d already been killed by some lame master vampire who just happened to have fruit punch mouth and be about as handsome as a T’Luagh demon’s hind end. If Angel and Xander hadn’t come down to help her, she’d be dead for real, and some other girl would be trapped being The Slayer. Talk about a dead end job…
She hoped Giles was okay.
She took the back way to Giles’ apartment building, through a couple dark alleys that really weren’t safe at night unless you were a Slayer. Then she knocked kind of loud, but not too hard, because Giles had been really cranky the time she accidentally put a fist through his front door when she’d been in a big hurry. And maybe there were a couple dents in his front door that were her fault too. It wasn’t fair he didn’t have a sturdier door.
Giles finally came over to the door. He just looked out at her through that little peephole thingy before he opened up. “Buffy. I-it’s late. Uh, are you alright?”
Buffy came right back with, “I was gonna ask you the same thing.” Because he was the one who’d messed up this time, not her.
But Giles just muttered, “Yes, I’m fine, fine. Look, I’m, uh, I’m rather busy a-at the moment, so, uh, I’ll see you on Monday at, at school.”
And then he had the nerve to try to close the door in her face! She put out one hand and easily stopped it. “Giles, did you forget? The hospital, vampires, handy carry-out packets of blood?”
Giles kind of stammered a bit, and finally told her he was in the middle of something more important, and he had to go. And he closed the door in her face again! She didn’t know what was going on. Well, she could hear him getting back to a phone call, and she could have eavesdropped if she wanted to drop some eaves, but knowing Giles it was probably something that would be so dull it would make her brain get dusty just from listening.
Xander walked down the hall toward the computer classroom. Why wasn’t he slacking off this stupid Saturday morning stuff? Okay, maybe it was because of his dad getting up before noon for a change, and being really cranky about someone dropping his beer so there were broken bottles and a huge mess in the garage. But Xander hadn’t been within yards of that stupid junk, so his dad had probably busted it himself last night and had been too drunk to remember it. But that meant Xander was in hitting range as long as he was in the house. So maybe school was better. Willow’s place would have been even better, but she was here too, playing teacher’s assistant. And since she was here, he was here too.
But the really incredibly stupid thing was that of all the people who were supposed to have make-up computer lessons, the only ones who actually showed up were him and Cordelia. Ugh. And Cordy was still mondo pissed at him over that whole Halloween deal, which had been like weeks ago. Cordy’s little Cordettes had slacked off from the class, and the football players and cheerleaders who were supposed to be there had cut class for some stupid game, and the school Neanderthals had probably forgotten, and Cameron had just ducked. But Cameron had been getting weirder and weirder ever since Halloween, if you really wanted to know.
And Cordy was bitching away about being the only girl dumb enough not to cut the ‘computers for dummies’ thing. “This isn’t right. School on a Saturday. It throws off my internal clock.”
Xander chipped in, “When are we gonna need computers for real life anyway?”
But Miss Calendar couldn’t spot a joke when it was about her class. She insisted, “Hmm, let’s see… There’s home, school, work, games...” She led them into the room, which looked really big when there were only the four of them.
Xander tried a little more humor. “Y’know, computers are on the way out. I think paper’s gonna make a big comeback.”
Willow finally got in on the act. “And the abacus.”
Xander gave her a big smile and added, “Yeah, you know, you don’t see enough abaci.” It was only after he said it that he realized he’d screwed up again. He knew the classical plural for abacus. Dumb old Xander wasn’t supposed to know stuff like that. Only Xena. Or Willow and Giles. But definitely not Xander. He just hoped Willow hadn’t noticed.
They sat down, and Xander had the unpleasant surprise of Cordelia sitting down next to him for some reason he couldn’t begin to imagine. But before he could start complaining, Buffy barged in. He didn’t even think Buffy was supposed to come in this morning. He was pretty sure Giles had gotten Buff a ‘get out of computer jail free’ card because he was dating Miss Calendar.
Buffy marched right over and said to Miss Calendar, “Actually, I wanted to talk to you for a second?” Okay, it wasn’t Angry Buffy or Pretend Clueless Buffy or even Real Clueless Buffy, it was Worried Buffy. And they all knew Worried Buffy was of the bad.
And as soon as it turned out Buffy was worried about Giles, that pretty well got Miss Calendar totally sidetracked off class. So yay! Except that Giles was home drinking and acting totally un-Giles-ish. And since a ton of people had been acting really freaky since Halloween, Xander was getting the wiggins about the whole thing, even if Giles hadn’t worn a costume at all.
As far as Xander knew. Oh God, what if Giles had worn something from Ethan’s costume shop and hadn’t wanted to admit it? He could be doing pretty much anything.
And, just to make everything extra-perfect, Cordy knew there was a problem and hadn’t bothered to tell anyone. She smiled, “No, he seemed perfectly normal yesterday when I saw him talking to the police.”
Xander glared at her and for a split-second wondered why he hadn’t just gone ahead and hacked her a good one with that sword while he was Xena.
Buffy snapped, “And you waited ‘til now to tell us this because…?” He could tell Buffy was thinking about hacking Cordelia up with a sword too. Or something like that. Maybe just hanging her from the ceiling by her ankles and using her as a punching bag
“I didn’t think it was important.”
Xander couldn’t resist slipping in another cheap shot. “We understand, Cordy. It wasn’t about you.”
And as soon as Cordy remembered that the police were talking to Giles about a murder
, Buffy made a beeline for a phone. And Buffy was moving at Slayer speed. Xander saw how worried Miss Calendar was, so he said, “Hmm, I wonder if Buffy’s going to be able to get hold of Giles?” That was enough to get everyone else in the room following Buffy.
Unfortunately, that meant Cordy came too.
As they walked out of the classroom, they all heard an enormous crash, like a whole bookshelf had tipped over. Xander sprinted for the library, closely followed by Will and Miss Calendar. He heard some guy yell out a loud “OWW!”, so he figured Buff had things under control. He slowed down to a trot. But when he heard the glass breaking, he sped up again. He was just in time to push open the library doors and get a good look at Ethan Rayne, and a guy who looked dead. And possessed. And mobile and hostile.
Buffy looked Xander’s way and yelled, “It’s Ethan Rayne! Don’t let him get away!”
Xander took one look at Ethan Rayne, and had a sudden desire to break something. Like Ethan’s neck. He slammed Ethan up against the counter. Ethan did some sort of spell that knocked Xander back, so Xander let his inner Xena take over. He kicked Ethan right in the crotch. The guy let out a pretty pathetic squeak, and collapsed to the floor.
“Very manly there, Xander,” Cordy sneered.
“Oh, you just wish you could have done it,” said Willow.
“Damn straight!” Cordy said. “Ethan Rayne? That jerk owes me for my deposit on my Halloween costume!”
By then Buffy already had Creepy Undead Guy locked in the book cage. Which Xander didn’t think was such a great idea, since Giles had some serious weaponry stashed in there. But as long as Creepy Undead Guy didn’t do anything except growl at them, it was probably okay. Still, the second that guy tore a locker open and pulled out a crossbow, Xander was dragging Willow back behind the book counter. On the other hand, Xander didn’t have any better ideas for what to do with the guy. The Xena part of him was thinking ‘fire’, but burning down the whole library would probably get him some pretty serious detention. And Giles would be really mad about his books.
Oh yeah. The Buffster ended up getting locked up in a nuthouse for burning down the Hemery High gym and trying to explain why. So maybe not a good idea after all. Things were a lot easier back two thousand years ago, when all you had to do was say you burned a place down to kill a monster, and then show you were ready to kick the asses of everyone in the entire village if they didn’t like your idea.
Wait, that didn’t sound so easy.
Buffy grabbed Ethan, picked him up by the back of his shirt, and slammed him into a library chair. Ethan groaned hard. Xander asked, “Could I hit him next?”
Just about then, Giles burst into the library, looking about as frazzled as Xander had ever seen him. “Is everyone all right?”
Xander said, “Deadguy here interrupted our tutorial.” He turned his head to the book cage and said, “Been meanin’ to thank you for that.” Deadguy ruined the joke by leaping right at him and scaring the crud out of him before hitting the cage and coming to a growling halt.
Then Giles went all Ripper on Ethan. Xander really enjoyed that part. Especially the ‘lifting Ethan out of the chair by his hair’ part. But before Giles got Ethan to spill anything really juicy, Creepy J. Deadguy busted out of the book cage. The door slammed right into Miss Calendar, knocking her out. Xander grabbed Willow and dragged her over behind the book counter. Giles ran for Miss Calendar, while Buffy ran for Deadguy. Then Buffy kicked the tar out of him until he just had a convulsion and fell to the floor right next to Giles and Miss Calendar. Even worse, he just dissolved into a big slimy puddle of sliminess.
Willow winced, “Now there’s something you don’t see every day.”
Cordelia complained, “I’m gonna be in therapy until I’m thirty!”
Giles helped Miss Calendar up and held her, in a totally not-for-old-people way that had Xander thinking about his gag reflex. It wasn’t until Buffy said something that he even realized that Rayne weasel had run off again. Xander didn’t like the guy, but he had to admit Rayne had world-class running-away skillz. It turned out Rayne even managed to run away and hide from Buffy. Okay, he probably used a magical spell to do it. But still, vampires had trouble running away from the Buffster, so points to Weasel-Guy.
But when Buffy came back Rayne-less and wanted to know about the Mark of Eyghon, Giles totally shut her down and even told her to butt out. Which was totally un-Giles-ish. They watched in astonishment as Giles slowly walked Miss Calendar out of the library to take her home.
Buffy waited until Giles was out of sight, and then she said, “We have work to do. Will, I want you to find out anything and everything you can about the Mark of Eyghon.”
Willow nodded. “I’ll try the net, but ‘Mark of Eyghon’ sounds like a Giles and his books sorta deal.”
Buffy firmly said, “Then we hit the books.” That was a sign that Buffy was mondo worried, because she’d usually rather do pretty much anything besides being Research Girl. She turned to Xander and said, “Hey Xan, how do you feel about digging through some of Giles’ personal files and seeing what you can find?”
Xander knew an order when he heard it, no matter how nice Buffy put it. He shrugged, “I feel pretty good about it. Does that make me a sociopath? Nah.” And he headed for Giles’ file cabinets. Which would’ve been okay, except Captain Buffy ordered Cordy to come help him, which was about as much help as setting his pants on fire. Except not as much fun for him.
After a while spent picking locks and rummaging through some frighteningly well organized files, Xander walked out to see how Will was doing, and to get away from Snipey McSnipeSnipe. Will was giving a book her frowny face, so Xander took a peek.
Will said, “This Egyptian is way too confusing, because just look at the hieroglyphics!”
Xander glanced over it and patted her shoulder. “It’s Etruscan.”
Willow looked again and said, “Of course! It’s not Egyptian, it’s Etruscan! Look Buffy! Any fool can see it predates their iconology. It’s Etruscan. Okay, the Mark of Eyghon, worn by his initiates. ‘Eyghon, also called the Sleepwalker, can only exist in this reality by possessing an unconscious host. Temporary possession imbues the host with a euphoric feeling of power.’ See?”
Buffy asked, “Yeah, but what about non-temporary?”
Willow translated some more, “Umm, ‘Unless the proper rituals are observed, the possession is permanent, and Eyghon will be born from within the host.’ Wait… Okay. ‘Once called, Eyghon can also take possession of the dead, but its demonic energy soon disintegrates the host, and it must jump to the nearest dead or unconscious person to continue living.’ Yuck.”
Buffy frowned, “I still don’t get what this has to do with Giles.”
Willow said, “I don’t know about Giles, but ancient sects used to induce possession for bacchanals and… and orgies.”
Xander groused, “Okay! Giles and orgies in the same sentence. I coulda lived without that one.”
Cordelia snorted, “Well, I don’t get how Mister C-Minus over here knew it was Etruscan.”
Willow’s head whipped over and she stared at Xander. Buffy did better than that. She moved so fast Xander hardly knew she was moving before she had a hold of his shirt and was practically lifting him off the floor.
“Hey! Hey! Watch the shirt!” Xander squawked.
Buffy growled, “How’d you know it was Etruscan… Eyghon
Oh crap. Xander tried, “Oh come on, you know I’m not Eyghon, right? I mean, I wasn’t ever dead for him to get in me!”
Cordy ‘helpfully’ added, “Yeah, but you’re like unconscious 24-7, though.”
Buffy lifted him about half a foot higher and shook him like he was a rag doll. “So how’d you know something like that, if Will didn’t know?”
Willow protested, “Wait, I should’ve known it! I mean…” She suddenly turned pale. She stared at Xander with a horrified look and whispered, “Thank Zeus you’re all right.”
“What?” Buffy turned to look at Willow, completely ignoring the teenaged boy she was waving around in the air. “What’re you talking about?”
“…Willis!” Xander couldn’t help adding.
Willow looked like she wanted to run out of the room. Or burst into tears. “The first thing Xander said to me after the Halloween spell broke. He said… He said, ‘thank Zeus you’re all right.’ Xander would never say that.” She glared angrily at Xander and hissed, “You’re Xena! What the hell did you do with my Xander?”