Author notes: Thanks to the people who reviewed or favored this story. I am always eager to know what you think about what I write. I hope you will enjoy this new chapter.
“Mom?” asked Buffy, her eyes pleading for it to be a nightmare.
“I suppose you’re wondering about this,” said Joyce, pointing the star on her brow. “I will see you both at the meeting,” she added, nodding towards the demon and the cat.
“Of course, Your Majesty,” said the cat, bowing slightly.
The two creatures exited the house by the kitchen’s door, the demon’s legs rotating like a wheel around its head.
“Your Majesty?” asked Buffy who thought the theme of the Twilight Zone should soon start to play in the background…
“Can you sit down? I will explain but it’s still a school day and you need your breakfast. Pancakes?”
She wasn’t sure she wanted to eat anything but her stomach growled, probably in response to the delicious smell coming from the pancakes pile her mother had set up just in front of her.
“Buer is a very nice person, you know. He is a very skilled physician both in mundane and magical healing. Sitri is more oriented towards… relationships but… well he’s still a cat for some things. ”
“Can you define ‘demon’, dear?”
She wanted to say some generality like evil and non-human but she knew it wasn’t true, that she had already met exceptions. Angel was special because of his soul curse but she had also met demons like Clem who were… just people, no better or worse than humans.
“Demons are… most of them are evil, Mom.”
“We will have to discuss on good and evil soon, Buffy, but not now. I would say that most ‘good’ demons stay as far as they can from Sunnydale. This place attracts… demons with a certain mindset, like that ‘catholic schoolgirl’ from last year… A pity that she is already dead… I would have enjoyed destroying her myself.”
Buffy shuddered. There was something in the tone of her mother that she had already heard, in her own voice, years ago, before the Slayer forced her to reconsider her values. It had been when she had been Hemery High’s Queen Bee and she spoke about ‘losers’ like if they were barely worthy to be scraped from under her shoes. But Mom is saying that about Darla, the master vampire that turned Angel… yet… why do I have the feeling that she could pulverize the Master with a snap of her fingers?
She could feel it, coming from that same part of her mind that had her compare curses to computer programs. She had known someone wearing the same six-pointed star on her brow, someone whose power made the vampire lord known as the Master look insignificant. This person with the star on her brow… she was someone that ‘alien’ part of her both feared and revered.
“Eat your pancakes, dear,” said Joyce. “Most of the demons you encountered so far had values that are incompatible with those of humans. In many ways, this city was a jungle in which humans were kept oblivious to the fact they were prey.”
Joyce sat and took a sip of her coffee. To Buffy, this was another proof of the changes her mother had gone through. She was not drinking from her usual mug, but from a small espresso cup.
“The situation with demons”, continued Joyce, “is in many ways similar to the impression one may have about a foreign country. You focus on the acts on some jerks instead of seeing the whole. The fact the sources you may access on them are also often biased, because they were written by people who mostly wanted to record how to destroy them, only reinforces the thing. That’s how we end up with simplifications like ‘all demons are evil’.”
Buffy started to eat, preferring to split her concentration between food and the fact her mother seemed to know an awful lot about the supernatural.
“How do you know that?”
“This brings us to what happened last night. I suppose that you remember buying that dress in a costume shop called Ethan’s, starting your trick-or-treating tour and little else until you awoke here?”
She nodded warily.
“Ethan Rayne is… or rather was a Chaos sorcerer. His idea of a fun joke was to bewitch all the costumes he sold. When he activated them last night, all those who were wearing them transformed into their costumes. From what I was told, you turned into a caricature of an eighteenth century noblewoman. As for me…”
“You had no costume last night, at least nothing bought at Ethan’s.”
“Correct but Ethan himself was played by… let’s say the powers he invoked to keep things simple. You remember the crate of items I brought back from LA? Some of them were bewitched too, though a little differently. Each of them was keyed to a specific person and used Ethan’s spell to trigger a different transformation. Because of the bracelet I was wearing, I became Hild for a night.”
“Who’s this Hild and am I still speaking to her?”
“As for who, Hild is fictional in this universe. I think that Willow has the comic were she appears but it’s something that you can check later. What’s important is that Hild is, in her universe, the Queen of Hell. Last night, she forced me to look at my – and your – life with the eyes of truth. Among other things, she made me realize what the catholic schoolgirl or the Billy Idol wannabe I chased during the parents-teachers night are: vampires. She told me about the Slayer, the Watchers and the rest. Then… we made a deal.”
Buffy choked on the sip of orange juice she was drinking. Since her mother had started to speak, she had remembered some glimpses of last night, when she was acting as the ‘noblewoman’ so she could believe the costume part. She could even admit that her mother had turned into some kind of demon for a night and kept some knowledge out of it. She remembered the problems Xander had with that hyena spirit possession the year before.
“Mom… dealing with demons is… bad, major bad.”
“Buffy, do you really think I could stay idle now that I know how you risk your life night after night? Do you really think I could stand the thought of all those young girls sacrificed for a system on the perpetual brink of apocalypse? No. Hild offered me a chance to fight back, to give you a better future than to fall in a nameless battle, forgotten as another girl replaces you.”
Buffy lowered her eyes, feeling tears run down her cheeks. She understood her mother’s logic. She hated it but she understood it. But now… would her mother end up like Catherine Madison, the wicked witch they defeated a year ago? I… I don’t think I could kill her, kill my own mother. I… I need to know more.
“What’s the catch? There is always a catch…” she said, barely holding back her sobs.
“There is one. Hild changed me. You would maybe say that I am eviler than I was yesterday. My love for you didn’t change, but the understanding I have now of… your world… I will kill without hesitation if I have to; just as the cheerleader you were in Hemery learnt to.”
“I don’t care about species or race. I care about threats to my people and I will deal with them.”
Buffy had for half a second the idea to answer something about vigilante justice. Two feelings, coming from two different part of her essence quashed that idea promptly. One came from a familiar part of her. The Slayer didn’t ask for authorization. She took matters into her own hands, before it was too late.
Another came as a memory. She was a child and listening to lessons in a strange place with cold, harsh winds. A teacher with red marks on her face that were very similar to hers was speaking in a strange language. She explained how the demons of Niflheim worked and why. The high-and-mighty gods didn’t have the guts to dirty their hands and to remove the threats before they could do too much damage. Demons used pacts to set that kind people on a path of self-destruction.
She looked at her mother, seeing only love for her in her eyes. If she could still love, then it was not as bad as vampires. However, she had also felt the ice in her voice and she had little doubt that her mother would crush her enemies without the slightest guilt. No, no guilt… thought about the consequences and how it may disturb her plans certainly, but no guilt. Why does it feel… right?
She put frantically her hand to her own brow, rubbing her mark. If this mark was a sign of the demon species her mother was now… she was one too and that meant her body had been rewired with demonic instincts.
“No… it can’t…” she said, crying.
“Here, it’s all right,” said Joyce, hugging her sobbing daughter.
She had waited for Buffy to come to that conclusion, that she changed too.
“Last night,” she continued, “I – or rather Hild – rewrote the transformation spell. You perhaps remember a shower of red sparkles.”
She nodded weakly. She remembered being deadly afraid, cowering before Spike and then… red sparkles and the weak noblewoman being kicked out of her head … by something old, cunning and rather angry, an adult version of the child in that memory.
“I… or she, I don’t know anymore, said that she was Mara, Demoness First Class Unlimited… Since when do demons have a license?”
“They do on Hild’s world. It’s mostly a question of how much power they can access through Nidhogg… a system that doesn’t exist yet in this dimension. Buffy, this world needs a change. Rupert told me about the Master and the prophecy where you died. I want a better destiny for you. Now, thanks to Hild, it is something I can do.”
“Can’t the spell be removed?”
“No, the spell has ended. This is our new reality,” said Joyce, smiling gently as she looked in her daughter’s eyes. “Ethan has already been punished for his little joke,” she said while pointing a basket where a small form was sleeping.
“Mom… you changed him into a cat?”
“Yes, or rather Hild did. He cannot harm like this and I can always un-cat him if needed. Now that I think about it, I should rather call him Ethel as… well, she’s female too.”
Buffy did her best to keep her poker face. She had to speak to Giles, to find a way to get things right again.
“Morning,” said the still half-asleep voice of Dawn as she entered the kitchen.
Buffy turned to look at her sister, dreading to see red marks on her face. They were here all right, but it was not all. Her little sister had horns coming out of her temples and following the curve of her skull to finish with their points over her brow. Her hair had also turned to dark green and adopted the straight quality typical of Asian people. Lastly, a fine tail swayed behind her.
“I suppose you’re hungry,” said Joyce, smiling.
“Yes Mom…” said Dawn, arranging a lock behind her pointed ear.
“Nightmare… has to be a nightmare…” said Buffy, pinching her arm, hoping that she was just hallucinating as a consequence of some kind of wound received the night before. Even being completely delusional and in a padded cell would be better than her sister behaving as if having horns and a tail was normal.
“Mom?” asked Dawn.
“Your sister’s transition was more difficult than yours, Dawn-chan. She will still need a while to understand.”
“It’s not that bad, neechan,” said Dawn.
“Not that bad… You… me… we’re demons! You cannot even go outside without…”
“You remember that episode where Puck twisted Demona’s wish and turned everyone into Gargoyles? That’s what I helped Mom do last night… except with gods and demons and only the people in Sunnydale.”
Buffy remembered that cartoon and that episode. Not only everybody was changed, but all people taken in the spell thought the situation was normal.
“No… I cannot… no!” she yelled while breaking from her mother’s embrace and running out of the house.
“Should I tell Zu to bring her back, Mom?”
“No need dear. She needs to realize there is no hope, that she has to give in and embrace the change, like you and I did.”
“You speak of it as it was a bad thing… Pam enjoyed being a devil and… devils are maybe a little rough and competitive but they’re not evil, at least not forced to be evil.”
“You don’t have your sister’s preconceptions about us. Anyway… she will probably run straight to the high school’s library to look for Rupert and…”
“Now that will be funny. Mom, may I fly to school?”
“Hmmm… not today. I still have to see the Mayor to retune the apathy spell into a full glamour that will make our town look like the epitome of suburbia for any passing outsider. Study well and make our House proud, Dawn.”
“I will, Mom.”
“Where am I?” asked Willow as she woke up and put a hand on her aching head.
She recognized the place. She was lying on the sofa of her home’s living room, still clad in her Halloween costume, minus the ghost sheet that had caused her so many problems. She wondered if the rather racy top Buffy had her wearing was too small. No… it’s the bra that became too small…
She got up and walked to the stairs to reach her room when she stopped brutally, right in from of the mirror.
“Oh boy…” she said as she looked at her reflection, remembering the favorite quote of Scott Bakula in Quantum Leap. “Hello… Urd-chan.”
She tried to smile, letting her hands run on her new face, right to the upside down blue triangle on her brow and to the ones at the corner of her eyes. There were differences, like the fact her hair was platinum blonde, maybe with a slight hint of her former red, instead of Urd’s pure white. She also had a slightly lighter tan than the one of the Elder Norn. Actually, this was something she could have done herself with some heavy attendance to a salon. But not the eyes… exit my old blue; I’m well into purple territory now.
She also understood better why she felt like her bra was constricting her. She had inherited at least some of the goddess’ cleavage and her shape had lost the last remnants of childhood to make her… smoking hot.
She posed before the mirror, contemplating her own body as a smile crept on her face, thinking how she would be able to flaunt it before Cordelia and, more than all, use it to make Xander notice her.
“Wait… I’m not feeling embarrassed at all by the fact my breasts are almost spilling out of my bra… I just feel… deliciously wanton.”
Following her hunch, she concentrated, looking for something else the rather shameless Urd could have left in her. She quickly found it, the most evident part being the neatly organized alchemical recipes that now resided in her memory, among which more than thirty variations on the love potion.
“How… of course: Mother!”
She quickly covered her mouth with both hands. I said Mother instead of Hild!
She remembered Urd’s origins in the manga. She was half-goddess and half-demon, the daughter of Hild and… her father’s identity was not sure in the manga but Willow now knew it straight from the source. Urd’s father was the Allfather, also known as Odin or Kami-sama. She had half-brothers and half-sisters, but she was the eldest of all and the only child of Hild.
She also remembered something that Urd said in the manga. She said that the balance between her goddess part and her demon part was delicate and that she couldn’t love her mother, or she would fall. And Buffy’s mother was Hild last night… I… I’m gonna end up with red marks. Mrs. Summers was more a mother to Xander and me than our own parents were.
She reached her room and opened the closet.
“I need to do some shopping… well maybe I can…”
She concentrated, trying to find the desired memory. She smiled as she found it but quickly realized it was more complex than she initially thought. Contrarily to some games she had played, the spell’s power was not dictated by combat usefulness but by the actual forces controlled. And molecular manipulation is complicated… Maybe I could do some tests on small items.
She removed her bra and donned a t-shirt that used to be loose on her formerly petite frame. For her new bigger self, it made her braless status all too evident. Thinking about how the boys would ogle her if she went to school like this, she felt a curious mix of excitation and embarrassment. Maybe Shei… Mom’s clothes could work as an emergency and I can go shop after school.
She scolded herself for being, once again, confused on her mother’s identity. She perused a little through Sheila Rosenberg’s closet and found a bra that would be bearable for one day. Hmm… her light grey skirt suit… without the jacket and by showing enough cleavage…
She started to dress, not wanting to think too much about the fact Urd’s way of thinking was influencing her.
“Not too bad,” she said while checking the result in the room’s mirror.
She heard the bell ringing and got down to open. As she opened, she had the impression to see double.
“Heimdall?” asked Willow, feeling one of Urd’s memories impose itself.
“You too?” asked Xander Harris, pointing the blue marks on his face, then on hers.
“Come in, Xander.”
She led him to the living room and made him sit on the couch.
“What about the verbal invite? You know that’s dangerous, Will.”
“Please… you’re a god, not a vampire.”
He looked at her, trying to determine if she was joking. But there was something with her smile that was decidedly un-Willow. It was a small, bemused smile with something that could be a touch of cruelty. I… I remember that smile. I used to say that she had the same smile as her mother… then lightning usually hit me.
“You’re remembering things you never lived, right?” asked Willow. “It’s because of what happened last night. A transformation spell… and I think it’s permanent.”
“Yesterday evening, before I became… part Urd, I met… Mo… Hild.”
He rose instinctively and started to look around. He didn’t know why that name provoked a major panic attack in him but… Suddenly, he started to see like he had never seen. The walls, the horizon, the distance nothing mattered, he was seeing the crowd on Hollywood Boulevard. He turned his head slightly and he gazed upon Mexico City. How did Willow call me? Heimdall… minute, in the Thor movie, it’s the Asgardian that watches over the Bifrost and can see at the other end of the galaxy.
He closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm, limiting his sight.
“Okay… I can see very far and very well… even through walls.”
“Which leads me to the warning most goddesses gave to Heimdall: peeping will lead to a severe case of smiting… or you can try to peep on Mrs. Summers but… she’s Hild.”
Again, he felt fear… no, not fear: terror. He remembered things about that name. Hild was the queen of demons, the one being in all of the Nine Worlds that could force Surtur to kiss her feet. A woman without equal in both beauty and power and… a mother whose daughter had left her mark on Willow.
“Do you think it can be reversed? I mean… Mrs. Summers… she became a demon?”
“I’m afraid not,” said Willow, shaking her head. “That kind of things… the power needed… only the fact Mother has been included in it against her will. One does not spend that kind of energy on a temporary prank.”
“So, what do we do?”
“Let’s go to school. Mortals cannot see our marks and…”
“Will, all the people I saw coming here either had blue or red ones… and some of the demons had visible horns and tails.”
“Let’s go see Giles; he should be in the library.”
Joyce put her cup and a coffee capsule in the brand new machine. It was a gift from the Mayor that had been delivered early in the morning, probably following her comments during their midnight meeting. It had come with a card saying that he was looking forward to work with her. She took back the filled cup and inhaled the aroma with delight. Thankfully we demons are made of a sturdier stuff than humans… I probably won’t be able to afford to sleep for the few next days… and I hope Dawn won’t doze in class, given that she didn’t have much more rest than me…
While the Halloween transformation spell itself had ended fairly early in the evening, as most of the town’s population fell brutally asleep, the few of them still awake had started to work with haste. Contrarily to Buffy, I could not afford the luxury of denial… I had to embrace everything that was Hild in me… like so many others.
The Mayor had reprogrammed the spell that made people think vampire attacks were gangs on PCP or some other lame cover to hide what happened in Sunnydale from outside forces, both mundane and supernatural. She had herself added wards that would prevent the Sunnydalers from leaving the town until they could be sure all transitions were done.
Others like Buer, Sitri, Dawn and her friends had returned the people to their homes and repaired the worst of the damage to the town, sometimes with a few additions, like former vampires using some magic to turn their lairs in real homes.
Her own schedule for today would be pretty full and she would have to rely on Giles to handle Buffy. Things were still too fragile, particularly with the undertown’s untouched demons. I have no time to be gentle, not with what’s at stake. They will behave or they will die… eviler than yesterday indeed.
She wondered briefly if she should have stayed ignorant, but banished the thought with a scowl. Ignorance made her commit her daughter to an asylum after the Hemery massacre, because she wouldn’t believe in vampires.
Matter warped under her will as her clothes changed into a burgundy pant suit and she resumed what was now her true appearance instead of the disguise she had donned to lessen the shock to Buffy. Her hair shifted to platinum blonde and her skin darkened a little. Her eyes were neither the hazel of her human guise nor Hild’s purple, but the same burgundy as her suit.
She had places to go and people to see. As she passed before the mirror in the entrance, she smiled to her own reflection, seeing with delight that the small wrinkles that had reminded her of her age were gone.
After all, it wasn’t like if old age concerned her anymore…
Dawn walked in the streets, saluting some people as she progressed. It was a shame that she wasn’t allowed to fly to school but… they had to be a little cautious for the moment. During the last night, she had felt Pam’s cheerful attitude seep in her, making her want to make friends with everyone. She remembered Pam’s attempts to become friend with the Angel Linfa and how it had ended into… more than friendship. She wondered if her first kiss would be as good as Pam’s… and with a girl. The demon girl had not really cared about gender or even species, only looking at people’s hearts.
“You’re blushing, mate,” said the voice of Kit. “Thinking about Linfa?”
“Yeah… I wonder… what if she’s here too?”
“Most of the people we know are. Even that angel high-up, Aregna, is, working on some top-secret project with President Malphas. So there is a good chance she is. What I have to say is that you’re a demon, so act like one: conquer her.”
Dawn raised an eyebrow. Kit had been a little daring but this was a typical Raim behavior, one that could be resumed with one word: charge!
“I saw Mom talking with Professor Buer and Sitri this morning,” said Dawn, preferring to change the subject.
“Guess we will have some magic classes squeezed in at some point. Here comes Vine… I mean Amanda.”
Amanda seemed to have discarded Californian fashion for typical ‘Vine’ robes. Dawn remembered that Vine had often been a little conscious about her horse-like tail, an uncommon trait among demons.
“Good morning,” said Amanda. “Sorry to be late, but I had to discuss some things with my parents…”
“How are they taking it?”
“I’m not sure… at some moments they don’t even seem to notice they are demons now, at others… I left Viviane to look after them.”
Dawn nodded, remembering that Viviane was the name of Vine’s familiar undine.
“It’s good to have you both here,” said Dawn, hugging both of them.
Joyce was bathed in black and dark red flames. Everything had gone smoothly with the representatives of the undertown demon clans until those Fyarls decided to crash the party. Now, she was feeling another part of her humanity die. Fyarls were not renowned for their intelligence, but she had hoped that they would behave too. Guess that was too much to ask, particularly when I’m about to enforce peace with the surface…
One of them tried to tackle her and she dodged easily, relying on Hild’s well-trained combat reflexes. With a swift move, she put her hand on his skull and crushed it. A sweep of her hand and black lightning incinerated two others, which left her with three more to deal with. One tried to throw his paralyzing mucus at her, only to see it burn on her aura.
“You… dared… to… spit… at… me?”
In a corner of the room, a Brachen representative was having thoughts like ‘do not piss the Old One’ and tried very hard not to be noticed. It was confirmed when he saw her plunge her hand in the Fyarl’s chest and come out with a reddish shape she crushed thoroughly.
“Did you see?” asked another demon observer. “She ripped his soul out of his body and crushed it.”
“Now, listen!” said Joyce in a voice carrying all the iciness of Niflheim, “I am Joyce and I am in charge! You will obey or I will destroy you!”
The demons, including the two surviving Fyarls, knelt quickly. In a nearby passage, Angel, former vampire with a soul, rubbed the red marks on his face, not knowing what to think about the recent changes.
All of them… Dawn was right; it’s like in that episode of Gargoyles…
She looked at the students that were assembling before the beginning of the classes. All of them had marks, either blue or red. Some were like Dawn, with horns and a tail or had some other kind of animal traits. There was even a girl with blue marks that had a halo. Some of them… I know them… that demon girl is Eligor and the boy here Ravana… Stop Buffy! Can’t allow those memories to mingle with yours.
“I could ask you if know what’s happening and why all of them behave like if things were normal but… you seem even more in denial than me.”
Buffy turned, having recognized Cordelia’s voice. Of course, she had marks on her face, blue diamonds that were… familiar to her.
“You know that I have to control myself not to speak like some sort of French Canadian hipster?” continued the school queen.
“Sorry, I…” said Buffy, still struggling to push Mara’s memories back.
“Since yesterday, I am sharing my head with someone else,” said Cordelia with an accent that was decidedly not Californian but effectively reminded Buffy of a trip in Montreal. “Do you have any clue on what is happening?”
“No… only that it affects the whole town and that most people just don’t care… In fact I think that only the people who knew about the real Sunnydale have noticed there was something… abnormal. I… I think we have to do something fast, before the change settles in us and…”
“Hey, Mara! Glad to see you’re here too!”
Buffy turned again, looking at a guy she remembered having seen in computer class and now had red marks. His name was… she didn’t remember, maybe Sunny. No, that wasn’t it. His name was Susano-o and he was a good friend, occasionally with benefits, of Mara. Buffy blushed, hard, as she glimpsed into memories tied to… a certain activity.
“Ah, you’re here!” said Willow’s voice, coming from Susano’s bag. “One minute, I can make this… work!”
The demon boy quickly took his laptop out of his bag and opened it. Willow’s face appeared on the screen, before her hand suddenly came out of the screen, followed by her body and a rather flustered Xander. Except that it wasn’t the Willow they knew, but a platinum blonde, tanned girl with more than honorable cleavage who had landed in a pose flaunting her perfect body.
“Thanks for lending me your screen, Susano,” said Willow.
“No big deal, Urd. It’s nice to see you’re here too. My sister may be less enthusiastic, however.”
“Ama-chan’s here? How many pranks since yesterday?”
“We agreed on a ceasefire until things settled down.”
Buffy felt the need to cry but… she wasn’t sure why. Was it to see that Willow had lost herself so easily? True, she had always been curious and a little reckless and she could well imagine why her best friend would delve deeper and deeper in the alien memories if it meant doing things like… teleporting. But there was also something coming from Mara, childhood memories where she played with a girl that resembled Willow’s new form. There was also something more recent, a Ping-Pong match ending with an exchange of fireballs and lightning bolts as none of them wanted to admit losing to the other.
“On the name thing: I think it will be just Willow, at least for now. And you?”
“Sonny is still good, oh greatest geek of Sunnydale High… though in your current form, cheerleaders are going to hate you for having both brains and a killer body, you know. See you later in computer class, Willow.”
Willow smiled as Soichiro “Sonny” Tsujimoto waved her goodbye with an impish grin. She remembered another thing coming from Urd’s memories. While she had been the first, she was not the only one with mixed ancestry. Susano-o was like her, though he had made the other choice.
“Showoff,” said Cordelia, smirking, “though I must say it’s nice to see you finally showing some spine.”
Cordelia winced and rubbed her temples, not liking very much the flood of memories this name brought in her. Near her, Buffy remembered Peorth too, but she was still fascinated by the new and improved Willow. Willow had been in many ways the first real friend she had. The people at Hemery didn’t count. And now… Willow had in her head Mara’s best friend: Urd, daughter of Hild and Odin and she seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Seeing her exchange snarky comments with Cordelia was something totally alien for the shy Willow but… Urd was her mother’s daughter.
She looked at Xander as he straightened a little his clothes. He had god marks too and she remembered having read a file about someone with the same eye-like oval on his brow: Heimdall.
“Don’t you find Willow scary?” she asked to the male member of their little group.
“Most ‘twilight children’ have short tempers,” he replied, using Heimdall’s knowledge. “So… you’re Mara, right?”
“I… she’s stuck in my head, destroying me little by little.”
“Willow thinks it cannot be undone.”
“Hem! ladies?” said Xander at the attention at the two bickering teens.
“What?” said both girls, turning very angry eyes at him while Buffy prudently put some steps between her and the boy, an eye looking at the sky for lightning strikes.
“Shouldn’t we see Giles?” he asked, drawing into Heimdall’s vast reserves of self-control.
“True… guess I got carried over,” said Willow.
“He may know something,” said Cordelia.
As they progressed through the school, Cordelia thought about her recent ‘discussion’ with Willow. She knew it had broken some barriers in her mind and that the limit between what Peorth had left of herself in her and her own personality was a lot blurrier. She looked at the members of the ‘library club’ walking before her. I like the new Willow. Finally, there is someone with which I can trade barbs… I really pity the fool who tries to bully her now. Urd has always been a category of her own, just like her mother. Xander has Heimdall’s memories… not too bad. Heimdall is a little stiff but there is potential. As for Buffy… amusing to see that she’s the one of us that had the most knowledge about the supernatural but also the one with the most reluctance to accept our current changes. No… it’s not that surprising. I remember hearing her wishing for a normal life. She’s just afraid, afraid to be fully swallowed by the weirdness.
They arrived before the library’s doors. A sign indicated: ‘Closed for transformations, the library will reopen in the new annex next Monday’. From behind the door, sound of machines and crackling electricity came.
“Has someone heard about a new annex?” asked Buffy.
“No,” replied Willow.
“I could tell you that the library is closed and to go your way but Rupert is waiting for you anyway,” said a voice from behind them.
Miss Calendar, the computer science teacher, passed before them and muttered some words as she put her hand on the door. Her face had red marks that were familiar to the Slayer. Vapula… Niflheim’s Tony Stark.
A complex seal became visible, its lines of red light tracing the door. Parts of it modified, breaking the lines as the door opened. On the other side, there was little left of the library. Jenny Calendar ushered the teenage gods and demon through the door and re-sealed it behind them.
The whole library was gone. They stood on a catwalk over a hole filled with complex machinery that they all recognized as the kind of magitech used in Asgard and Niflheim. It was obviously still in construction, but part of it already looked functional. Near the bottom of the hole was a crystal globe covered in demonic seals and containing a kind of vortex of storming energy. Probes extended from the globe’s inner surface into the vortex, pumping something and feeding it to the machine.
The teens knew what it was. They had never seen that vortex like this, but they had felt its influence during their showdown with the Master last year. It was the Hellmouth itself, but completely sealed and, worse, used as an energy source.
“It’s still a work in progress,” said Jenny, a smug grin on her face, “but we worked well last night.”
“Of course… you’re creating Nidhogg… out of the Hellmouth,” said Buffy.
“Not only,” she said, pointing the top of the machine.
There was another globe, this time covered in Asgardian runes that extracted energy from a kind of heavenly glow. They looked at the gods and demons working here, putting circuits together or drawing magical seals to improve the ensemble. Cordelia recognized some of Peorth’s colleagues. Giles seemed to be overseeing the whole thing, looking over plans with a blonde man.
Buffy fell on the ground, sobbing. She tried to remember the strength she had shown in the last year, facing a disaster after another but this was just too much. Not only had Giles red marks and horns but he was working on something that she knew would not fix the situation, but make sure it could never be unraveled.
She felt Willow’s arms holding her.
“Hey… it’s all right, semi-sister,” said Willow.
“I think we have… the same mother now. We’re… different now, but it’s not that bad. You were strong for all of us since you arrived in Sunnydale. Now, it’s time for us to be there for you.”
Joyce sat in the Mayor’s office and looked at Richard Wilkins the Third, noticing very familiar blue marks and the patch on his left eye.
“So… I suppose that our subterranean citizens are being dealt with?” he asked her.
“Tentatively,” replied Joyce. “They acknowledge my strength but we will have to be cautious. Once the outsiders start to send agents here…”
“Removing Sunnydale from this world could help us with that.”
“But open us to full warfare from the others. Our current position on Midgard is a security concern, but also a protection as they still struggle to maintain their masquerade regarding the humans.”
“I will have to make an announcement tonight. The empathic field eased the transition, but it can only do so much.”
He looked at her as she nodded, thinking about how Halloween had both sent his own plans down the toilet and replaced them with something that would grant him a lot more than what he originally bargained for when creating Sunnydale, a century ago. Being the Allfather would be a lot more gratifying than becoming a simple demon. Oh my... there is still a lot of work to do but I guess we can manage.
“I would also like to… invite you for dinner,” he said.
She had that wicked smile he liked so much.