This fic is based on the wonderful AXIS
, as hosted by the great and wonderful Oz...er, I mean M. McGregor. Feel free to guess which items on the list were the basis (three of them, specifically). We begin post-season 2 episode 1, after Buffy made bone meal of the Master's remains... Disclaimer:
I do not own any of BTVS, nor do I make money off of this story or anything associated with it. I also do not own the myths of post-Roman Britain and Wales, funnily enough, but man
I'd be rich if I did.
“You look frightened. There's a large number of lonely men out there.”
“Don't worry, I won't let them rape you.”
--Lancelot and Guinevere, “King Arthur”
“...I can't believe I let you talk me into this.” Giles frowned, fumbling with the documents in question. They were crammed into uncomfortably small coach class seats, and once again he found that the Council was being cheaper than ever. They had literally billions
of pounds to play with, and what did the Watcher of the only living Slayer get? Peanuts.
Xander grinned. “Hey, best vacation ever.”
“How...how exactly did you find the money
for this? You're only seventeen.”
“Well, it's like...no, more like...okay, I kind of drained my road trip fund.”
“I was saving up for this whole road trip I was planning to do after I graduated. Then I figured, with my luck I'll end up in some podunk town with a busted car and no money, so might as well spend it now.”
Giles made a face. The boy wasn't exactly his first
choice of helper, but Willow's parents, absent though they might be, held her money in firm reins and had her passport kept away, and so he'd had to settle. If only Jenny hadn't been on that family retreat thing...instead he was stuck with an immature boy whose idea of England most likely came from films. If only the damned container wasn't so blasted heavy
Still, the Council had demanded he bring the dust of the Master's bones to them, and for once he agreed. They were far
too dangerous to keep near the Hellmouth, consecrated or not.
“Xander, your parents did
sign that release slip you gave me, didn't they?”
The boy grinned unabashed. “They, uh, kinda don't know I'm away. But they barely know I'm alive most of the time anyway, so...”
Damn. “You idiot! Do you have any
idea what kind of trouble I could get in!?!”
The grin faded and turned into a bitter grimace briefly before once more becoming a blithe smile. “Trust me, Giles. You won't. Besides, just three days, right? I bet they won't even be sober enough to notice I'm gone by the time we're back.”
“...very well. But, er, if any of this backfires...”
“Yeah. I know.” He looked out the window at the ocean below. “But it won't.”
Heathrow was smaller than he'd expected. When he mentioned this, Giles muttered something about movies corrupting the youth, but that was just Giles being Giles.
Their ride turned out to be a cab. While the Council paid for the plane ride, they didn't pay for living arrangements or traveling unless you had the receipts, so everything was out of pocket at the moment. That was okay. To be honest, being in a foreign country was amazing enough as it was for Xander.
“So, uh, will there be time for sightseeing? Or is this an all work, no play kind of trip?”
Giles gave him a slightly amused frown. “Well, I, I suppose...after we visit the Council headquarters we'll leave the Master's remains with a coven I know of near Glastonbury, they'll remove any mystical aspects of them before we dump them down the Ragsdale Well, so I suppose you could take a few hours to take in the countryside while we do the ritual...”
“Great!” The boy gave him a blank look. “And by countryside you mean..?”
“Trees, grass and dirt, I suppose. I was always more of a city lad myself.”
London was huge. And old. And huge. And everything looked old, and people actually talked really weird but familiar-like, and they had all sorts of neato things, and...
Yeah, he bought a toy Dalek for Willow. She loved
those pepper pot guys. For Buffy he got a wacky hat and some random knick-knacks, and for himself a couple t-shirts. With that, his entertainment funds were gone, and he settled in for tagging along with Giles.
Watcher HQ was really old and smelled of dust and metal. A cute dark-complected girl about his age smiled shyly at him from a corner where a grumpy old man sat next to her. He smiled back and waved, at which the old guy glared so viciously it was a marvel the air didn't catch fire between them.
There was tweed everywhere.
So he read his comic book, something featuring Judge Dredd and some really whacked out other
comics, and a lot of truly bizarre made-up slang words. He couldn't wait to start using them to annoy Snyder. Couldn't give him detention for cussing if the cusswords were fake, now could they?
Drokk. Heh. Drokk was a fun word.
“...really, but you couldn't be bothered, could you? When were we supposed to know, when she showed up?
No, I'm not going to let this go, it's far too important!”
“Rupert, surely you must-”
“Oh, don't be a prat
, Jameson. Now, if, if this Kendra
has business in Sunnydale or the Hellmouth, let us know before
you send her. Otherwise you'll just be proving
you're a blithering idiot. Good day
Wow. Giles was mad. Giles was almost never mad.
He got up, following the Watcher down the hall, comic book forgotten in his hand. “What's up?”
Giles muttered something vicious, then stopped, sighing and rubbing the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “A Slayer. There's another Slayer.”
this One Girl thing was a gyp!”
“It's not funny. Apparently, Buffy was clinically dead long enough for another Slayer to be called. You performing CPR on her has caused something entirely unprecedented to occur, a second Slayer while the former still lives.”
“Oh. But, uh, isn't that a good thing?”
Giles glared at him. “One would think
so, yes. But apparently
the Council was unaware Buffy was still alive in spite of my having told them this very fact months
ago, and so has been treating this new girl as if she's the only
Slayer.” He sighed again. “I'm going to storage to sign off on a few artifacts I brought along, you'll be all right here, won't you?”
Xander frowned at his comic book, then looked up. “Actually, it's kinda boring. Can I come with? I promise not to touch anything.”
“...I'll probably regret this, but, all right then. Come along.”
The storage rooms were neat. Swords of all shapes and sizes, spears and axes, statues, trinkets, jeweled daggers. Like a Hollywood prop-maker's dream. Xander wandered from display to display, looking, but not touching. Oh, his fingers itched, but he did
promise. He could look real close
“Hey, Giles, what's this one?” He turned to look at Giles while he pointed at a silver disk, taking care not to poke it.
Giles looked up from the ledger, his expression a bit owlish. “Hmm? Oh, just an old amulet found in a dried-up lake near Glastonbury Tor. Arthurian warrior cult, most likely.”
“Arthurian? Like, they worshiped king Arthur and stuff?”
“Yes. Fairly common before the concept of saints were more accepted in early Christian Britain. Some warrior cults were even based on the deeds of, of Slayers. Is there a, a sword on it?”
“Yeah. Kinda funny-shaped, too.”
“Seax, they were called. Went from knife-sized to fairly large swords. Most likely it's meant to depict some variant of Excalibur.”
Xander nodded, looking a little closer. “There's writing on it.”
Giles looked up, curious. “Oh? Let me see.”
Xander stepped aside as the Watcher got up and walked over to the display.
“Oh, I say. Fascinating. Wonder why there's no mention of it on the index card.” He nodded towards a small tightly typed card on the display case. “Are you, er, doing anything for lunch?”
“Kinda ran out of money in London. Why?”
“Well, I suppose we could go get some food at the local pub, I'll sign this out and bring it along for study. It's nothing important, after all.”
Xander gave him a suspicious look. “Are you trying to make me eat something weird? Because I've heard about British food, man.”
have hamburgers here, you know. In fact, the ancient Romans
invented the damn things, it's not a uniquely American foodstuff.”
Dinner was rich and heady. Their version of fries were thick and greasy 'chips', but the burger was awesome, even if the bun was some kinda wholegrain. How weird was that
would be the word for...” Giles jotted down another note. “This is rather interesting. Oh, the actual text is just a basic Arthurian slogan, 'whosoever brings forth the sword Caledfwlch, that's the earliest name for Excalibur, shall be', er...oddly enough, no mention of being king. Only rewards for the bearer I can decipher is 'guardian of three, keeper of the flame', and, er, 'warrior's squire'.”
“Like a knight's squire? So drawing Excalibur means you get to carry the sword of some other
kinda weird, isn't it?”
“Yes, but the wording itself
is odd, too. 'Warrior' is in the female
tense.” He frowned. “Like a Slayer
...I have to bring this to the Council. I recognize
some of the phrases. This could be more important than...”
“Sliced bread?” He grinned, mouth full of 'chips'.
“...yes. I'm sure.” Giles gave him a somewhat pitying look, then stood up. “Are, are you done?”
“Sure.” He swallowed, wiping his fingers and finishing the last of his Coke to wash things down.
Once again, he sat outside the offices as Giles argued his case with a bunch of old guys who seemed totally uninterested. Xander pretended to re-read his comic book while he listened to the voices drifting through the closed doors.
“...absolutely vital that we continue researching... ...another of your wild tales, Rupert, we can't very well dedicate resources to...
“...could be connected to several old Watcher legends from pre-medieval times, and...”
“...listen to yourself for a moment, next you'll be talking about the Holy Grail...
Right. Odds were, nobody cared about whatever it was Giles figured out. Too bad. Giles was good with the whole figuring old stuff out. He figured out that stupid prophecy that had stumped the Council, the one that almost had Buffy done dead.
He stared at the floor at the memory. Her pale skin, how cold she'd felt as he tried to push some kind of life back into her.
But she was alive now. That was all that mattered.
Giles soon left the office irritated but not quite as angry as last time. He smiled at Xander. “They wouldn't listen. Of course. No matter. I have ways. And the amulet.”
Xander goggled. “You stole it?”
...” Giles actually looked a little hurt at the suggestion. “Borrowed. I borrowed
“Well. Er. Why don't we get back to our hotel. Our flight leaves early tomorrow morning.”
It was raining when the plane left Heathrow, but Xander kept staring out the window the whole time until they were above the clouds. How do you explain that this was the most rain you'd seen in one day in your entire life? How do you tell someone this was more like...
...more like a father-son trip than he'd ever experienced before?
He glanced over at Giles, deeply ensconced in deciphering some old text while comparing it to the amulet. Then he nodded to himself, leaning back to get some shut-eye.
“The path is open.” She walks through the meadows, the moon high above. There is a great lake, the surface a perfect, unmoving silver. A single boat lies tethered to the beach, and in the middle of the lake lies a small island with a stone fortress on it. Two women stand beside the boat, awaiting her. One has dark hair to her shoulders and a hardened, wary look in her eyes. The other is darkly demure, her skin as brown as the boat itself. She approaches them, and they step aside to let her get in the boat, after which they also step in. On the floor of the boat lies a large crystal casket, seven feet long and four feet wide. There is a shape within it, but she can't make it out. She stares at it. The dark-haired woman nods. “He stands behind us, never before us.” The other continues. “He is our strength, our reason, our heart.”
“Without him, we are but transient, white ghosts.”
“With him, we are silent hunters, owls in the night.”
“The darkness is our prey.”
“The light is our shield.” She doesn't understand. She steps forward to look in the casket more closely, but they both hold her back. She pushes past them anyway, and finally she sees his face. He's...
Buffy sat up, her face splotchy and red and wrinkled from the pillow casing. Her hair stood in every direction and she was squinting, the faint light from outside more than enough to almost blind her. She smacked her mouth a few times, grimacing at the horrible cookies and milk-breath, then glanced at her clock. Five thirty in the morning.
“What the hell was that