A/N: This story was originally posted on ff.net in April 2013. I do not own either Harry Potter or BTVS. PrologueOctober 2003
"So...What's up with the total lack of action tonight? It's like they all called out or something."
Faith didn't just sound disappointed. She sounded slightly pissed off.
Buffy glanced at her companion, a smile ghosting across her face as they moved in tandem through empty darkened streets, their synchronous footfalls echoing across pavement. Faith was right, though. As far as slayage went, the night had been dead, no pun intended.
"I'm sure we'll find something dust-worthy tonight." She replied. "It's not like vampires need sick days. "
"Hope so. Gotta work off some tension
." Faith looked at Buffy meaningfully.
"You and me both."
Buffy doubted that she and Faith were talking about precisely the same kind
of tension, but right now she could totally relate to that, and stress, and well, pretty much any word that was the opposite of relaxed
It was ironic, really.
Shutting down the Hellmouth and saving the world yet again should count for something, right?
Buffy could close her eyes and recall that moment, that brief, shining moment after defeating The First when the intense euphoria of survival, of new possibilities had flared with incandescent brightness. They had stood, all of them, gazing at the Crater Formerly Known as Sunnydale, and her future had appeared as open, limitless and unfettered as the vast expanse that stretched out before her.
Apparently, though, no good deed went unpunished.
There was the hectic training schedule, the daily insanity that arose from refereeing a group of super powered teen girls forced to compete for limited bathroom space, and of course, an appalling lack of decent shopping. That in itself was a problem of potentially apocalyptic proportions.
Which is why she and Faith now patrolled the quiet cobbled streets of some quaint, picturesque Scottish hamlet whose name she hadn't yet bothered to fully remember, but may have had something to do with pigs. Or was it beer?
Either way, there was apparently a complete absence of nightlife, human or otherwise.
Still, at the very least, it got her out of their new headquarters, away from the noise, the crowded dorm-like atmosphere, away from what was quickly becoming the suffocating responsibility of playing mentor and peacemaker to the growing horde of fledgling Slayers.
Faith shot her a look. "You still not sleeping?"
Buffy drew in a breath. Sometimes it shocked her just how perceptive Faith was underneath that brash exterior. Hell, sometimes it still shocked her that they could actually interact without trying to kill each other. "Not so much. I'm dealing, though."
They walked on, lapsing into silence. Faith's low key way of asking about the nightmares she'd recently been having was a pleasant contrast from the virtual Spanish Inquisition she'd faced from Giles when she'd first mentioned them. Not that it wasn't completely understandable, but the unrelenting questions she didn't have answers for, and the hovering and the borderline obsessive eyeglass cleaning were beginning to make her feel rather stabby
As far as Buffy was concerned, prophetic dreams were all well and good in theory, but in reality they were made of one hundred percent pure suck. At first they had been vague and disjointed enough to be merely annoying, but the now ominous, violent dreams were increasing in frequency and intensity, leaving her drained and irritable.
Buffy knew, deep down, that another Very Bad Thing lurked on the horizon.
Better change the subject.
"So, when does Robin get back?"
"Not for another week. If I don't kill something soon, I might actually end up hurting
him, ya know?" Faith said, smirking and making what was quite possibly an inappropriate hand gesture.
"Oversharing much?" Buffy cut in.
"Are you kidding?" Faith shot back, incredulous, "come on, that was tame."
"Your version of tame can be a little scary."
Faith laughed, then waggled her eyebrows suggestively. "Robin likes it scary. This one time-"
"Again with the oversharing." Buffy sharply reminded her.
"All right!" Faith threw up her hands in mock surrender. "I will say this, though," she said as she reached over her shoulder and drew an elegant, slim katana from its dark polished scabbard. The curved blade glinted in the moonlight; it truly was an exquisitely crafted weapon. "The man knows how to give a girl a sword." Her tone was soft, almost reverent.
"So clearly, the way to your heart isn't flowers or candy, but edged weapons."
"You know it, B."
Their pace was slow, almost leisurely as they walked to the end of the block. There was a long row of tightly spaced, narrow cottages with thatched roofs that appeared almost fairytale like. As they passed, the cottages became interspersed with red bricked structures that appeared to be far newer as the buildings thinned out, and the cobbled streets sloped upward, becoming more hilly as they approached the outskirts of the small town.
Up ahead was a grassy hill dominated by a huge, ancient tree. Under the pale beacon of the autumn moon, Buffy could see the silhouettes of several headstones at the hill's crest, rising from the ground like thin, bony fingers.
They were making steady progress toward the cemetery when she felt it.
Like a static charge, prickling the hairs on her neck. Buffy paused, mid stride, and cast her awareness outward.
Thin coils of energy roiled and pulsed, dark, malignant and powerful.
"You feel that?" She murmured to Faith.
"I feel...something." Faith closed her eyes. After a moment, she shook her head faintly.
"Not a vamp, that's for sure."
"Just over that hill, I think."
Faith rolled her eyes. "Cemetery. You'd think they'd be a little more imaginative."
They crept forward, their senses directing them to the source of the energy, eventually taking cover behind a freestanding crypt that stood nestled amongst neat rows of carved, timeworn headstones.
They could hear a deep voice, chanting.
In a small open area there was a large double circle, marked with strange glyphs, painted roughly onto the grass with a dark, viscous substance that looked like blood. Small flaming braziers were placed atop several headstones, casting eerie, flickering shadows over the proceedings.
More than a half dozen tall, gray, scaly demons stood poised around the circle, each armed with a long handled battle axe. Each of them bore what appeared to be the same marks on their chests that corresponded to the glyphs on the circle. In the center was the chanting figure, arms raised to the inky night sky, a headdress with long, curving, bone-like horns obscuring its features.
The sour tang of blood hung in the air, mixed with smoke and incense.
It smelled of foulness, and death.
"Fuckin' A," whispered Faith.
Buffy could only nod as a sense of foreboding clutched at her gut. This was big. Too big for just the two of them. "We need backup," she murmured, almost inaudibly.
Faith whipped her phone out, the tiny light from the backscreen casting an eerie glow on her features. After a few quiet taps on the keypad, she carefully slid it back into her jacket. "Done."
Buffy stared at the hooded figure. She felt a sort of hazy recognition, a half formed sense that she should know
this, but it was jumbled around in her brain, like pieces of a puzzle she couldn't fit together. Distantly, she heard someone whisper her name. As each second swept by she remained frozen, silent, as her mind whirled and struggled to process the tableau before her before the sense of insane, frantic dread paralyzed her completely.
She snapped back to reality.
There was an urgent edge to Faith's whisper. "Jesus, B, you with me?"
That instant, scattered fragments of image and memory clicked fully, startlingly into place.This. The dreams.
Her eyes widened.
She found her voice, clamped her hand on Faith's wrist. "We have to get out of here. Now!" She breathed urgently.
Faith's expression was hard, questioning, but to Buffy's incredible relief she simply nodded.
"Let's roll, then."
Without warning there was the harsh sound of ripping fabric. Faith jerked back abruptly, then staggered, a pained hiss escaping her. "What the Fuck!" she croaked, reaching up reflexively across her body with her left hand.
Buffy turned, saw the right shoulder of Faith's jacket was slashed open. Deep, jagged cuts marred her flesh; blood rapidly leaked out, staining her shirt.
"Faith!" Buffy yelled, all pretense of stealth forgotten.
A second later Faith cried out and doubled over, clutching her abdomen. Her head whipped up, eyes wide, her mouth set in a tight grimace. When she pulled her hand away from her stomach, it too was bloody. "Aww, shit
Instantly, Buffy moved toward her, but Faith waved her off. "No, no! I'm okay!"
Buffy stood, tensely scanning the area for an impending attack as Faith, clutching her midsection, backed herself up against a headstone before sliding into a seated position. She could sense traces of dark, crackling energy lingering in the air around them. Every single nerve was tense with anticipation, but there was no rush of heavy footfalls, no rustle of weapons, nothing.
Of course, there didn't have to be, Buffy realized, when the opponent could use magic to take them down from a distance. A scorching wave of anger coursed through her, then, and her Slayer instinct surged forth, eager for the exhilaration of battle. Her tone was steely. "I'm gonna rip that magician's horns off and make him eat
"Never been a big fan of the mojo, myself." Faith gritted out. With her free hand she reached behind her, unclasped the scabbard and extended the katana toward Buffy. "All you got is your stake," she explained. "Here. Go introduce Mister Mojo and his buddies to my shiny new friend."
Buffy nodded. "Works for me."
Buffy snatched up the weapon, then turned and launched herself forward, leaping smoothly to the wide flat top of the nearest stone crypt to gain a better vantage point in the murky darkness.
One of the demons had broken formation, and was moving toward them.
Blood had been shed. Buffy thought it only fair to return the favor.
She dove off the crypt, rolled to her feet, then quickly covered the short distance to reach her target. The demon growled, gripped its axe with both hands and shifted into a combat stance. It barely had a chance to draw back its weapon before Buffy slipped easily through its guard. She knocked the axe aside with a single kick, then thrust the katana deep into its chest. It hung there, body arched in agony, convulsing for a moment until she yanked the blade free; the demon gurgled thickly as it crumpled to the ground.
Her attention snapped to the circle. She stalked over, sword raised. Stationed like sentinels around the circle, the six remaining demons stood unmoving as the sorcerer continued to incant.
What the hell were they waiting for?
Suddenly the sorcerer fell silent, then jerked his head up, his dirty, skeletal features twisted into a manic grin. He clapped his hands over his head, once, and the circle and glyphs began to glow. She noticed now that he wore a strange metal amulet, and that the stone in the center was also pulsing with light.
He spread his arms out, palms up, and shouted. "Eryishon k'shala meh-uhn!"
Above his head the air shimmered. A crackling, flashing rift appeared.
"Diprecht, Doh-tehenlo Nu-Eryishon!"
The swirling rift rapidly expanded, tendrils of lightning snaking out in random bursts, and Buffy abruptly found herself buffeted by a powerful gale that threatened to throw her off balance. It was strong, like an undertow, drawing her closer to the vortex.
The sorcerer stood off to one side, still grinning, apparently unaffected by the pull of the rift, his amulet glowing bright like a beacon.
He didn't seem too concerned that his minions were also struggling, their arms flailing against the ever widening vortex.
Buffy decided it was time to wipe that disgustingly smug smile off his face, and smashing his fancy necklace would probably be a good place to start.
She hastily slipped the sword into the sheath on her back, relaxed her limbs and allowed the momentum created by the wind to carry her over to the sorcerer, who stared at her in confusion that shifted into shock when she seized his upper arm in one hand and grabbed the chain holding the amulet.
"You stupid bitch! What are you doing? Let go!" He yelled as he thrashed in her grip.
Digging her fingers deeper into the sorcerer's bony arm, she pulled him down sharply until his face was right at eye level.
"Call it off!" Buffy growled. "Shut it down!"
He sneered at her, then spat, "It's too late!"
He laughed, then, loud and gloating, then said, "Have fun on the other side."
With that, he jerked his body back hard and kicked out, almost dislodging her-but her grip on his arm was like a vise and he was no match for her strength.
For a brief second Buffy simply stared at him, rage coursing through her like acid, burning and noxious, before coalescing on the point of light on his chest. His eyes widened almost comically when she let go of the chain around his neck and drew back her fist, aiming directly for the amulet.
"No!" He screamed, shaking his head frantically, "No! You'll kill us both!"
Her arm quivered. God, she really wanted to hurt
him--the urge to pulp his face was nearly overwhelming-but she managed to stay her fist. Instead, she seized his other arm and held fast.
One by one the demons became airborne and disappeared as they were sucked into the churning rift. The wind grew fiercer and her clothes flapped and rippled across her body; she had to shout to be heard over the howl.
"Then it looks like you're coming along for the ride!"
She felt a flare of satisfaction, even as they were both lifted off their feet from the sheer force of the whirlwind and he was jerked from her grasp.
He wasn't smiling anymore.