I do not own Angel the Series or BBC's Merlin. Made by a fan, for fans to read and enjoy. I make no money of off this. Though if I did, that would be pretty sweet. Frickin' copyright laws. Ah well. Author's Note:
As I noted before, I have a tumblr where I occasionally put up stuff relating to the fics I write – writing updates, meta-discussion, fandom ramblings, et cetera. If you're interested, alkenifanfiction.Tumblr.com , Either way, on with the fic.
Thanks to deitclast, my beta for helping me with this chapter.Ruins of My Kingdom to Come
Chapter 11: Tainted Timeline
Wesley followed alongside Gaius as the older man made his way from his lab to the throne room, where Uther would be conducting the business of state – running Camelot. An indulgent King, perhaps, but an idle one disinterested in running his realm? That was not Uther. Kings such as that didn't last in the England of this era – or most of Europe at this time. You needed stronger institutions to have that kind of ruler last for more than a few years without a coup or a successful invasion.
As they walked, Wesley continued to give Gaius the crash course on vampires. “Vampires usually hunt alone, but they have a tendency to group in nests. That said, its unlikely there will be more than one right now – nests usually center around one sire. This vampire was likely trying to start a nest of its own here. But that isn't reason to be calm. One vampire can take on a dozen humans or more, easily, especially if they're unprepared. Always go armed when fighting vampires, preferably with swords and wooden stakes. Torches. In groups. Crossbows, or bows are a good idea as well. In a perfect world, you don't go up against vampires at all.”
“This isn't a perfect world.” Gaius pointed out.
“You don't need to remind me. I wake up every day in it.” Wesley snapped. “Vampires. Fucking Vampires.” And with vampires came every little other thing. At this rate there'd be Slayers, apocalypses and the early Watchers Council in Camelot inside of a decade, not the three decades of the original timeline. Vampires and demons, by all reports, just didn't exist in Albion at this time, and yet now there was one.What the bloody hell happened?
It was possible the histories weren't entirely accurate....but given that he had come back in time with Illyria it seemed even more likely that something had gone wrong with history. It could be that the presence of an Old One served as a magnet, similar to the way the Hellmouth did, but on a lesser scale? Possible. He would have to study this.
As that thought passed through his mind, Wesley latched onto it. Sanity was in short supply for the former watcher, former detective, former employee of Wolfram and Hart. The familiar was always useful in keeping him grounded, and he latched onto everything familiar he could, especially here.
“If you want to minimize casualties, have Uther order to keep people inside their homes. Vampires cannot enter a personal residence without an invitation, verbal or written. It has to explicit, like 'come in' or 'welcome' or something like that.”
“Which would be why you generally just open the door and gesture?” Gaius inferred.
“Force of habit. I haven't dwelt in my quarters long enough to build up a threshold that vampires can't cross. They'd be able to enter without difficulty, but yes, that is what tends to become normal and customary in vampire-heavy areas. The land from which the Lady Illyria and I come had vampires and demons in significant numbers.”
“Vampires are humans risen from the dead – do they appear as rotting corpses, like zombies risen by some of the darker magics of the Old Religion?” Gaius asked, making mental notes on all this, already planning to write the entry for these creatures, for future generations in Camelot – the knowledge of these vampires would be kept in the Library, and probably among the books in his lab.
“Vampires appear as normal humans most of the time.” Wesley explained. “Unless they are feeding or about to feed, generally. Sometimes other times, if they aren't trying to keep themselves hidden among their prey.” Or if they're part of a cult that wants to excise their human-ness from their forms. But let's not complicate matters.
“Then their eyes go yellow and slitted, somewhat like a cat's, and they form ridges, right here.” He indicated on his own face where he meant. “Distinctly not human. But as I said, not what they generally wear.”
“Then how is a vampire to to be told from a human barring such circumstances?” They couldn't go around simply staking or beheading anyone they suspected, or lock them up in the dungeons until sunrise. There just wasn't enough room, and such indiscriminate imprisoning could lead to a minor riot. Such a thing would be easily dealt with by the city guard, but not something to invite if it could be avoided practicably.
“Vampires cast no reflection – not on mirrors, or any other sort of reflective surface. That is one way to tell – but Vampires consequently tend to avoid mirrors and reflective surfaces for just that reason. Though if you can carry something like that around, you can make some progress.” Wesley started. “But really, flicking holy water on them is an excellent way to get it done. Holy Water will burn a vampire – not enough to kill, short of total immersion, but no human will react in pain to holy water. Its not perfect as a method of detection. Some vampires – just as some people – are better at avoiding visible displays of pain.”
Gaius avoided noting the slight unhelpfulness of Wesley's answer there, since it really wasn't the man's fault that vampires had these natures. He was simply reporting what was, and as a man of science, Gaius had to live in the world of what was, not the world of what was wanted to be. Indeed, before he could ask further questions or make any sort of comment, they reached the doors to the throne room, and the Guards let them in after only a moment. Uther was sitting on his throne, a few members of the royal court around.
The King was speaking in hushed tones with one of his knights, Wesley saw, trying to place the man with a name. Sir Leon? He wasn't sure, but that was the name that came to mind, so perhaps it was correct. He didn't spent that much time around Camelot's knights.
“Your majesty,” Gaius began, “forgive my intrusion, but a matter of grave importance has arisen.”
Uther looked up from his quiet conversation. He knew Gaius wouldn't interrupt unless it really was important. “I assume this relates to the body that was found in the lower town this morning? Was it the work of sorcery?”
Gaius shook his head. “Not sorcery. A vampire.” He nodded to Wesley. “Wesley is quite familiar with the creatures, and can elaborate more on the problem and threat they represent.”
Uther looked to Wesley. “Go on.”
“The vampire is a dead human animated by its own fel energies that feeds on the blood of living.” Wesley said. “They can make more of their own with ease, and are very difficult to kill – their strength is that of many men. And one vampire, given time, can not only kill many, but create more. Such as the man found this morning. Had precautions not been taken, he would have risen come the night. They are beings of pure evil, possessed of no morality and conscience.”
“But they are not creatures of magic?” Uther asked. Everything was a creature of magic in Albion, as far back as anyone had known. He'd heard stories of creatures not 'of magic' in distant lands, but only that.
“Not as such. You can consider them a kind of demon.” Wesley answered.Yes...I'd heard of those.
Uther was no scholar, but he was an educated man, and rumors and stories of these 'demons' – though probably ones that had grown in the telling – had reached him. “You say they are difficult to kill. Why?” Uther got straight to business.
“They are resilient to all injury, healing far faster than any human.” Wesley said. “There are only four sure ways to kill a vampire. Sunlight is deadly to them, so if you can expose them to sunlight and keep them exposed for a time, then they'll die. But vampires stay in hiding during the day regardless.”
“Which suggests that method is not reliable.” Uther noted. “Continue.” He gestured for Wesley to do just that.
“Decapitating them will kill them, as will sharpened wood through the heart.” He rolled up one sleeve, revealing the stake-launching half of his collapsible sword-wrist device. “For example, something like this.” He removed the stake and handed it to Sir Leon, who tested the balance a moment. “It has to be through the heart – anywhere else and you'll injure it for a time, but nothing more. The last method is fire. Complete immolation.”
“Not a wide set of options.” Uther noted. “But hardly impossible.”
“No, not impossible. But the strength and speed of a vampire cannot be underestimated. I have fought them for years, in the land from which the Lady Illyria and I come from, but even experience can only take me so far. Unless you have no choice, they should always be hunted in teams of three or more, and while wooden stakes are effective, the sword is preferable. Vampires rarely use weapons beyond their fists and feet, and the distance a sword provides can save your life. But you can almost certainly expect casualties.” Wesley concluded. Sir Leon handed him the stake back, and the former watcher fitted it back into place on his wrist device.
“What about an arrow, or crossbow bolt?” The knight asked. “Would that kill them?”
“Not if it was tipped with metal. If you shot a sharpened arrow shaft or sharpened bolt, then yes.” Wesley nodded. “And again, aiming for the heart is your only option.” Leon nodded as well, following along with what Wesley said.
“You seem experienced with these, Wesley. What would you suggest we do about them?”
“For one, I would advise ordering everyone to stay inside, come nightfall. Vampires cannot cross a threshold without an invitation...” Wesley began.
Night rose over Camelot, the half-moon hanging low in the sky, casting illumination over the city, but hardly making all visible to the eye. As per every knight, guards patrolled the lower town, but now they were joined by more – the Knights of Camelot were on the prowl. Led by Arthur, they entered the lower town.
“Leon, with me.” Arthur said, then he gestured to one among them who didn't wear the livery or insignia of Camelot and the House of Pendragon at all. Wesley was coming along. The man had basically invited himself, but Arthur had seen no reason to object. He was not too proud to take the aid of a man who knew more about these beings than he did. “You as well.”
Wesley nodded and walked over to stand near the prince, who turned to face the rest of the knights and the guards. “Stay in the groups of three. Explore every inch of the lower town – if you find someone outside, test them with the holy water, or the polished silver. And be careful.”
Every group had one person with a crossbow – Arthur had one, though he also had his sword with him – and torches. Arthur felt confident they could take this vampire and stop it from killing anyone further, but Wesley seemed far from sure.
As they moved out, down the various streets and alleys of Camelot's lower town, Leon turned to Wesley. “How many vampires have you killed, then?”
“I never kept score.” Wesley noted, annoyance in his voice. Quite a few, all said and done, though not as many as some.
Both Slayers and Angel had easily racked up more kills them he had, even given Faith's long incarceration in the middle. It was the nature of things. “But a vampire that doesn't want to be found is much harder than one they attacks you because it thinks you're an easy meal.”
They moved their way through the streets, the torches Wesley and Leon carried casting further flickering shadows, in some ways making it harder to make things out, their eyes not adapting to the dark of the night as well...
A flickering shadow slipped the sides of their vision. “Up there!” Arthur's words brought the other two look up at the roof, an indistinct figure moving too quickly for them to get a good look. Too quickly for someone normal. Arthur fired his crossbow, the bolt skating just inches behind the figure as it moved too quickly for his shot. “Dammit!” Arthur dropped his crossbow and drew his sword. It kept moving, jumping across the rooftops.
“Its heading for the castle!” Arthur chased after it. Wesley looked to Leon and rolled his eyes. The other knight didn't reproach him for his disrespect, but didn't seem to approve of it either. The two headed off after Arthur.
Morgana stood in the balcony-hallway, looking out over the courtyard and the stars above, the night. Her practice with Merlin had been....slow. She hadn't been able to quite manage putting the candle's flame out, always leaving a small flickering bit, a touch of smoldering ember on the wick. Her frustration had kept building...Merlin had cut things off then, before her magic got carried away...
She felt...she still felt...helpless, in the face of this. This power inside her, that she could barely control, that could get her killed if anyone heard of it, or saw it in use...the only person in the castle she could trust, it seemed, was Merlin. He had told her the truth, believed her...accepted her...and shown her a secret that was just as deadly. That was what made it really possible for him to be the one she could really trust, the only one in the castle. Could she really trust people she had to lie to daily? Uther, Arthur, even Gwen.
The sound of someone or something moving nearby pulled Morgana from her thoughts. She turned, looking behind her. “Who's there?” She saw a figure, shrouded by the darkness of the night, the moon not illuminating enough to make it visible. It wasn't a guard – the guards didn't crouch like that when they-
The figure lunged at her, yellow eyes burning with an inhuman hunger. Despite her efforts, the creature hit her shoulders, pinning her down to the ground. Fangs...she saw fangs, as her thoughts raced, trying to draw on her magic, trying to get this thing of her, a scream starting to rise to her lips...
In an instant, the creature was pulled off her, flying backwards, a headache rising in her mind. A familiar voice matched to another figure. “Save your magics for when you can use them, witch.” Illyria turned around, moving to the figure that had attacked her. She punched it as it leapt to its feet, sending it flying again.
“You are not supposed to be here, vampire.” Illyria told it, tone declarative and firm.
“What are you!?” The figure, eyes still yellow, hissed.
“That is immaterial. You will not exist long enough for it to matter.” Illyria grabbed onto the vampire's arm and threw him, sending him flying down into the courtyard, a slight, sickening crack at the impact. Even as it landed, a guard on patrol reached the balcony-hallway. Without a word, Illyria grabbed the guards polearm, snapping the wooden shaft in half, dropping the bladed half and jumping down into the courtyard, landing fifteen feet down with a tumble and a roll, rising to her feet, the vampire on its feet as well.
Despite its best efforts though, even as Wesley, Arthur and Leon reached the courtyard, the vampire was back on the ground, the broken wood thrust right into its heart, Illyria's eyes and mind seeing and thinking on things imperceptible to the mortal eye.The Timeline has been tainted. This will only be the start.