Discaimer on first page....plot scattered liberally through story...add review and stir counterclockwise three times...now bake.
I’ve dealt with a lot of scary things in my time, slain demons that would boggle the mind, but none of it has quite prepared me for the sight that greeted Nick and myself when we reached the basement of vamp central.
When I left Nick at the top of the stairs, I skipped down to the bottom where I could see a set of swinging doors. From behind them, I could catch vague snatches of music but not something I could identify from this distance, whatever it was wasn’t turned up very high.
Beckoning to Nick who was still swaying slightly near the decimated entrance, I pushed on one of the doors and stepped through.
“Err…huh?” Not the most eloquent of quippy Slayer introductions, but all logical thought had left me at the sight before me.
I was standing in a large hall, eerily similar to my old high school gymnasium. The whole place was decked out in black and orange crepe complete with glittery bats and uber fake spider webs. There was even a disco ball and a banner proclaiming ‘HAPPY 40TH BIRTHDAY’ only someone had used a black marker pen to cross out the forty and instead inserted 430 and the word ‘Master’.
All in all, the place looked like someone with very bad taste had raided a Post-Halloween discount sale and used their purchases – quite liberally at that.
Apparently Nick, who’d finally managed to pull himself together and come on down agreed with me because he pulled up on my left side, looked around and in a puzzled voice asked: “Uh…isn’t it May?”
“Yep. I told you the legions of the underworld were evil, just look at what they’re doing now! Perverting man’s time-honoured festivals. With confetti!”
“Yeah and not very well either. Oh, I think we interrupted those bloodsuckers earlier, look at this,” Nick directed my attention towards a table near the feeble Birthday banner, covered in the worlds ugliest tablecloth and strewn with scissors, sticky-tape, and two different sorts of wrapping paper, both in distasteful shades of virulent orange.
“Dear god,” I exclaimed, unwittingly echoing Giles, “we’ve interrupted the minions planning their evil Puppetmaster’s birthday bash! Look…they’re giving him a gift certificate for Harrods and a life supply of Turtlewax. Wow, this officially wins the prize for what has got to be the crappiest present, like…ever!”
“Yeah, that and a jar of pickled baby eyeballs, can I just say, ew?” Nick said, surreptiously wiping the hand that had touched the jar on the back of his jeans.
“Apparently, they’re quite delicious. Or so I’ve been told,” I said nodding sagely, while wrinkling my nose at the pickled goodies and the appalling décor.
Evil, pure evil.
“So, when do you think the big event is supposed to be going down, from the looks of things…” that’s as far as Nick got before he cut himself off by jumping on me.
In a completely nonsexual manner I promise you, there was little to no romance in the way he threw myself at me, head first, limbs flailing. He managed to muffle my –somewhat - undignified squawk and drag me under the table just in time, with a well placed elbow to the ribs and a hand over my mouth.
Turns out, his super duper doggie hearing had managed to pick up noises coming from the stairs behind us, noises I had not picked up as I’d been busy yammering.
Whoops! I think this mean I lose one Slayer Stealth Bonus point. Only another gazillion to go.
“Shut the fuck up,” he hissed at me when I tried to point out that he could now remove his hand from my rear end “I don’t fancy being lunch, err…dinner…on what time scale do these things operate anyway?”
Glaring slightly - the effect being ruined by my untimely cross-eyedness - he was situated slightly to my right and behind me and while a Slayer can do many things, rotating her eyeballs is unfortunately not one of them - I hissed “Greenwich Meantime” and busied myself picking tinsel from my hair. That damn stuff really just gets everywhere.
“Really?” hissed Nick, “those critters just get weirder and weirder.”
I would have agreed, except I arrived at this conclusion seven years ago when my first Watcher introduced me to my first vamp.
Ah, the good old days….if I missed them any less I’d be dead.
Having finished removing all the orange and black scraps of tinsel from my hair, I evaluated our current situation. Nick and I were huddled under a table that would no doubt shortly be surrounded by several busy-bee minions while they went about wrapping their boss’s dastardly birthday gifts. Therefore, it might be an idea to move to somewhat less conspicuous location…such as anywhere really.
Pondering this very thought, I cast my beady eye about the room.
Large hall, not much cover except in the lower right hand corner where I could see some shutters. Squinting slightly, I focused and bit back a whoop of triumph. Instead, I slapped Nick around the head in a celebratory manner and whispering “Come on,” dragged him from under the desk.
We quickly scuttled over to the shutters which turned out to be a locked down bar, just as I’d hoped. As quietly as possible I snapped off the padlock that held the shutters closed, threw myself over the bar counter and motioned for Nick to do the same.
Checking that the bar was really empty, we would have been sitting ducks if it turned out they were using this bar later, I drew down the shutters leaving only a tiny slit for us to peak though and breathed a sign of relief.
Not a moment too soon.
Now, I am not a coward.
I want to go on record as having said that because right now I’m visualising my audience booing loudly and throwing popcorn at the stage. Sure, I’d like nothing more than to explode into action and kill every single critter out there, hell; the decorations alone deserve a thorough staking.
However, several years of not dying have taught me that it’s a good idea to assess a situation before jumping in, proverbial guns blazing.
It’s a good thing I did.
Not a minute after Nick and I took up our new positions, several shambling forms came into view. Two were clearly vampires in full gameface, although one of them was the most insipid looking vamp I’ve ever seen in my life. The third shape was a Ankari demon.
I’ve only ever tangled with one of those before and it was pretty nasty. Very tall and gangly looking, at the slightest sign of danger, the Ankari literally explode into a mass of claws and tentacles, with an offensive body odour to match.
I was ripped from my musings on this pleasant subject by Nick who was shaking me, and not very gently either.
“What? Stop shaking me, I get seasick!”
“You zoned out,” he said raising his eyebrow at me in the accustomed patronising manner. At some point he’d figured out how much that particular gesture annoyed me and now used it as often as possible, “what is that thing out there?”
“Ankari demon,” I told him absently, trying to remember anything and everything I’d ever read about this particular breed of demon, “allergic to nylon, they are supposed to be stingy and miserable. And they have an inexplicable fondness for cheese.”
“Well in that case it’s simple,” I heard Nick’s voice, dripping with in my opinion unnecessary amounts of sarcasm, “we lure it out into the open, possibly by waving
a cheese platter under its nose – I’m thinking a nice Brie, maybe some Roquefort - and then we strangle it with your tights.”
I fixed Nick with a glare filled with just the right amount of condescension deserving of his comment and didn’t bother answering.
As if I wear tights.
Coming back to the problem at hand, I postponed Ankari slayage strategy for a time when I might need it and decided to eavesdrop instead.
From what I’d managed to gather so far, vamp1 was pissed with vamp2 for using all the fabric softener and vamp2 was worried that their Unholy Master might be stuck in traffic. All in all, an overwhelming supernatural threat these guys were not.
They didn’t even notice the pointed absences of the two vamps Nick and I staked earlier!
I was about to dismiss this as a botched job badly done and just emerge from my hiding place to rain down the fury on their scabby heads, when the doors swung open.
Apparently the rest of the party had arrived.
Over the next half hour, while Nick and I crouched and waited, we managed to count at last 60 vampires, a pair of Abraxis demons complete with pouch bearing offspring, a human looking guy with a pack of hellhounds all sporting matching satin bows, two Scintian Deathbearers, a gnome, three fury little things Nick kept insisting were Ewoks and a couple of creatures I wouldn’t know how to identify.
When the third vamp vomited his A-pos cocktail against the bar shutters I decided the time for being charitable had past.
“No vampires in Stonehaven,” I sniped in an unflattering copy of Clayton-I-Am-A-Ginormous-Asshole-Danvers, “I’m a big and scary werewolf, demons of the underworld beware.”
“Idiot!” I snapped at Nick, “This is all your fault!”
“What?” he spluttered which incidentally made him look highly unattractive and slightly insipid, “how is this anything to do with me?”
“Don’t argue with me,” I growled, “I have superpowers.”
This was going to be a long night.