Apocalypse Aftermath - Chapter 8
Giles grabbed his Master's Guide to the Esoteric, a tome he was never without now, and flipped rapidly through the pages until he reached the notations about the Carpathian Orb. The information was regrettably scanty, but he did find one sentence that caused him to call Jacob sharply over. After a quick consultation, Giles slammed the book and almost ran out the door, leaving the friar to explain his sudden, undignified haste.
"He's gone for supplies. We already knew that the Carpathian Orb is a magick enhancer. What we didn't realize is that it doesn't enhance only the Power inherent in people; it's capable of boosting any magickal property. Which means that we should be able to enhance the antivenin."
"But that's just a drug, isn't it? It isn't magickal." Buffy was beginning to wonder whether they were letting hope run away with them. She noted with mingled pride and sadness that Xander was staying very close to his crossbow.
"Not so much, no. Not in itself, anyway," Jacob confessed. "However, the Werewolf venom is magickal, and since the serum does have an effect on that super-natural poison, it should be allied enough to the magickal plane that the Orb will have the power to affect it."
"Are you sure?" Dawn was almost afraid to hope.
"No, but it's the best shot we have." Giles closed the door behind him and handed Buffy the herbs he carried, with the instruction that she mix them in equal amounts, grind them fine, and separate the resulting powder into six small bowls. Dawn moved to assist her. "It will take two steps: The first enhancement will be done before injection of the serum, the second after." He gazed soberly at the Hunter. "However, we cannot inject you until the Change has occurred. That's when the Werewolf venom is strongest, and when the Orb's enhancement of the serum will be most effective."
Van Helsing swallowed. "Understood. But you must chain me."
"Can't Willow hold you with the Orb? Like she's done the other times?" Dawn looked up from her work. She hated seeing anyone she cared about tied up.
"I'll be too busy with the Enhancement," Willow said. "The Orb has enough Power, but I don't have enough concentration right now." She shrugged sheepishly.
"No biggie. Chains are the fashion accessories of the month." Buffy tried to lighten the atmosphere. "Only problem is: Where are we going to get chains?"
Jacob cleared his throat and tossed his keys to Xander. "In the trunk of the sedan, there's a set." When everyone stared at him, he blushed. "They're a part of the standard kit, okay?"
Xander muttered about the weirdness of the religious vocation as he headed for the street to root around in the Vatican's sedan. He just hoped that he wouldn't attract too much attention from a cop while he was carting the things around. Then he found them and snorted in disgust. They looked fragile enough that a two-year-old could break them. He yanked hard on the links as he climbed into the elevator, and almost dropped them in surprise. They may have looked delicate, but they sure didn't feel delicate.
"Here. One set of toy chains, at your service." He couldn't resist the crack as he tossed them to Jacob.
The friar grimaced as he caught the slender links. "They're stronger than they look. They've been magickally enhanced for strength, and to make sure that they don't cut into the skin, being so thin."
Willow held Van Helsing's gaze as they placed the chains on his wrists. He winced at the memories invoked, and then smiled lopsidedly at her. "Okay."
"All right, people. Buffy, Dawn, are you ready?"
"Ready." The sisters carried powder-filled bowls into the room and set them on the floor in a circle mapped out by the Watcher. Willow sat in the center, with the Orb in one hand and the syringe in the other. She couldn't help shuddering at the size of the needle attached to the huge barrel. With a nod to Giles and Jacob for them to light the herbs, she Connected with the Orb. As the herbs began smoldering, sending perfectly straight lines of smoke from the floor to the ceiling, the Orb swept her up in Power and she actually Felt the serum reacting to the augmentation supplied by the swirling light. When the feeling subsided, she relaxed, gesturing for them to snuff the coals.
"It's done. At least the first step." She handed the syringe to Jacob and cradled the currently quiescent Orb as she moved back over to Van Helsing. "When you Change, we'll do the rest. Just do your best to keep quiet. The soundproofing seems to be pretty efficient, but one good howl and we're all toast." She sat next to him and rested her head on his shoulder, ignoring the chains. He chuckled as he turned his head to put his face into her hair, breathing deeply of the strawberry scent that was so much a part of her. They waited.
When nothing happened for the next five minutes, Xander got impatient. "Look, why don't we force the issue?"
Willow raised her head. "How, Xan? He has no control over it: It happens when it happens."
"Uh, yeah, but it also happens whenever he looks out the window."
Everyone stared at him in shock. "Well, duh." Dawn put everyone's disgust into words before marching over to the window to grasp the curtain string. "Everyone ready?" Not even waiting to see if there was unanimous agreement, she pulled hard. "Showtime!"
The moonlight streamed through the clear glass, bathing them all in its silvery glow. Their pale faces reflected the light as it shimmered around the room, seeking out their eyes, pair by pair, to bore deep into their souls, searching for the Need. The Hunter turned his gaze on the window and allowed the Desire full rein. The Light filled him, slaking the thirst he felt in his soul; remaking him into something new, something Powerful and Strong.
As the Change hit Van Helsing and he surged against the bonds, Willow backed away abruptly. "Damn it, Dawn, a little more warning, okay?" She spun and ran for the table, scooping up the Orb and quickly lighting the remains of the herbs. "Everyone be quiet. No words." The trails of smoke wafted towards the ceiling, and the Witch held the Orb close and began the secondary Chant as they Connected.
When she reached the halfway point in the incantation, Giles gestured silently for Jacob to inject the Black Wolf with the antidote. The friar took a deep breath and shuffled close to the Changed Van Helsing, watching narrowly as the Wolf glared in return. He held the syringe carefully, knowing that this would be his only chance. The Wolf snarled, obviously fighting the urge to howl his defiance, and pulled hard against the chains. Jacob skipped back, and then with a sheepish glance at Giles, he leapt and sent the needle deep into the rippling abdomen, pressing the plunger before even the Werewolf could react.
Dawn started to cheer, and Buffy grabbed her and slapped a hand across her mouth, shaking her head frantically. Dawn grimaced, nodding in remorse. She'd forgotten. No words. They turned and watched as Willow, with the Orb floating front of her face and her eyes closed, continued the Chant, oblivious to everything going on around her.
Dividing his attention between Willow, who was chanting as the Orb flared and swirled in startlingly eye-catching patterns, and Van Helsing, who crouched in the corner snarling and testing the bonds on his wrists with his fangs, Giles realized that they had to be very careful. There was no telling how long it would take Willow to complete her Working, and the Black Wolf was looking more unmanageable every second.
Coming to a rapid decision, the Watcher moved over to the table and sat opposite Willow. He held out his hands to cup them over Willow's where they rested on the table. Her chant faltered for a second as she adjusted to accept his presence, then picked up as strongly as before.
Giles sighed in relief. One step down. Now all he had to do was get the Orb to agree to him joining with the two of them. He closed his eyes and Centered, then reached out to allow his essence to impinge upon the Orb. The swirling colors brightened and lost their cohesion, and Giles backed off hurriedly, before gathering himself to try again. He didn't have much time - the Black Wolf's snarls were becoming louder.
He tried again, more slowly this time. The Orb reacted, but not as violently as before, so he continued the attempts at Connection. Finally, he felt the same tearing as the first time as he'd used the Orb and the sense of Connection filled him. Once again, he was plugged into the main power grid of the universe. With that Power filling him, he turned to the now struggling and loudly snarling Werewolf, and commanded complete immobility. He got it. The Black Beast stilled, physically and vocally; and the voice of the Witch was the only sound in the room.
Buffy and Dawn moved over to perch on the couch beside Jacob, who was already sitting there completely focused on his friend, the Hunter become Prey, crouched against the wall. Dawn gripped his hand, and he smiled weakly at her before returning his attention to Van Helsing. Xander joined them after a couple of minutes, bringing his crossbow with him, just for safety's sake.
They waited. Finally, Willow's voice, now slightly hoarse, slowed and softened as she wound down the Spell and released the Orb. Giles remained Connected, alone this time as he continued to hold the Werewolf under thrall. Willow snuffed the herbs in the bowls and collapsed back into her chair to catch her breath. Buffy put a glass of water in front of her, and she grabbed it and almost gulped it down before thanking the Slayer profusely. After gathering her thoughts, Willow joined again with the Orb and Giles to make his task of holding the Werewolf easier.
"It's working!" Jacob's voice cracked the shell Willow had built around herself. "He's Changing back."
She looked over at the chained Beast and found that the friar was correct. The fur was dropping off, to disappear as it hit the ground. The claws were shortening, becoming plain fingernails as the muzzle and fangs receded to show again the classic features of the Hunter. He collapsed in a huddle against the wall.
"It's over." This time Willow was positive. She turned to Giles as the Watcher reluctantly pulled back from the Orb, and he agreed. "It is." They turned to the others and smiled.
"We did it." Jacob rushed over to his bag and dug out another set of clothing. He figured he'd better get a bigger bag, at this rate...
Willow unlocked the chains and released Van Helsing. He grinned weakly up at her, still unable to stand. "I'm okay."
"I know. I could feel it. The Enhancement worked." Sitting beside him, she wrapped her arms around him and held him close. "You're clean. Cured."
"Thank you, love." He looked at the others. "Thank you all."
Giles cleared his throat. "Glad to help." Pulling his glasses off to clean them, he gestured for the others to join him at the door.
"Why are we leaving? The party's just start - " Xander opened his mouth before Buffy could grab him.
"Xander! Shush." The Slayer glanced over her shoulder at Willow as the Witch helped Van Helsing to his feet. She grinned. "Guys, let's go."
"But what about cleanup?" Everyone stared at Dawn, who said, "What?"
Buffy shook her head, still slightly shocked at hearing that word in Dawn's voice. "Cleanup can wait till the morning. We'll come back then."
As the gang tiptoed out the door, the Hunter and the Witch moved slowly across the room together.