Awakened FaithDisclaimer: Faith and Co. belong to Whedon and Co.; Thuringwethil and Melian belong to Tolkien; and the cildabrin, zyern and airjellies belong to WotC.And so it was written: once upon a time two of a kind will battle each other, and one of them shall fall…
…And Faith fell. She fell, holding her last remains of consciousness, hoping to get away from her fellow Slayer. And as she fell, she won-dered, as to how could she have forgotten about B’s thing – when the going got tough, the blonde slayer forgot all about finesse, and went-on laying waste and destruction to everyone remotely “evil” in her sight.
That last bit was important, Faith realized. Now if she could only understand why…
Everything went black.
Faith was awakened back to reality by a loud buzzing, that reminded her vaguely of a hornets’ nest in lilac bushes that she once saw in the Boston National Historical Park, and that memory was not a pleasant one.
Faith hurriedly opened her eyes. Sure enough, she was lying on the edge between a dusty plain and a very dark forest. A horde of people was running through the plain, amongst clouds of buzzing hornets, chasing a wind-tossed red banner. They were, however, avoiding another crowd of people that were standing in line… to a gate before a river.
Faith narrowed her eyes. Even with her enhanced senses of a Slayer it was hard to distinguish what was written on that gate… “Abandon all hope ye who enter here?” she finally managed to distinguish, before realization hit, and she almost froze in shock.
Several minutes passed, as Faith continued to stare at the gate and the crowd that passed through it and into the boat on the other side. Oh, and the boatman had eyes that glowed like an aroused owl’s.
“That’s it,” Faith said flatly. “I’m not that desperate to go that a-way,” and she turned around.
Once again she looked at the forest before her. It looked dark and uninviting, to say the least. But at least it didn’t lead to Hell…
“Hey you! What you doing there? Are you one of ours or a neutral?” barked a hard voice.
Faith slowly looked away from the forest and saw several devils fly towards her on their huge, bat-like wings.
Silently, Faith weighted her options. Instantly, she decided that she didn’t care if she belonged to the crowd that led to the boat or not – she wasn’t going to Hell. Period.
As the devils drew closer, Faith then decided that she wasn’t going to lie to them either – only a very foolish being would lie to a devil while standing in the shadow of Hell, so that left open one last re-maining choice – making a huge jump, Faith fled to the forest.
The devils’ cries behind her told her that her chase was on.
The forest met her with a lot of shadow and vegetation. Truly, you couldn’t see the forest because of the trees, and you couldn’t see the trees because of all the other plants that grew there – various vines, lianas, shrubs…
Faith’s brain, however, didn’t register that – she was too busy running, with the devils’ yells growing steadily closer.
However, Faith wasn’t very worried. Though the stakes in this chase were marginally higher, these devils didn’t look any worse than Kakistos did, and his intentions were probably hardly any worse than theirs.
Faith’s ear suddenly heard some sort of a noise, and Faith’s slayer instincts reacted on it: she jumped, rotating in the air, and only barely avoided getting stuck on a devil’s fork.
“You cannot escape us, sinner!” the devils hollered, but they were interrupted by a sudden howl – a new creature jumped into the clearing.
It was a wolf, but a thin, emancipated one – yet it was by no means sickly, as one look at its’ livid green eyes could tell you. And what’s more, she was looking right at Faith.
The devils yells changed from angry to amused and rather aroused.
“Go get the sinner, girl!” one of them yelled.
That did it. Faith hadn’t gotten to this point in her existence by being nice, and she certainly wasn’t about to change a working for-mula: she whirled around, disarmed the devil with a kick, and knocked him out and away with a punch.
And then, noting the fact that Faith’s attention was away, the she-wolf sprung.
Again, Faith not so much as realized as she heard and reacted upon hearing the sound: she grabbed her grisly trophy and swatted at the animal. And a hell-beast or not, a Slayer, using her full strength to swing an iron fork like a fly-swatter, is a considerable opponent: the animal got flung away into some bushes, completely out of commission.
Faith, however, didn’t have time to gloat, as the other two devils lunged to stab with their own weapons, and she barely managed to twist away from one attack, and parry the other.
For a few seconds neither of the devils actually believed that their attacks have failed, and then the wolf came back to attack yet again. Only it was still dizzy and unstable, and yet still full of greedy malice, so it didn’t realize that Faith had moved earlier and so now it slammed into one of the devils, biting it savagely in the shoulder and causing it to drop its’ weapon.
The other devil just stupidly gaped at their pet, and this gave Faith an opening to slam it in the knees with her own weapon.
The last devil toppled, and Faith fled, grabbing two of the trophy weapons, and jumping up a tree and from it to another one – and so forth, leaving behind the shrieking, howling, snarling, yelling mess.
In the merciless sylvan gloom, time seemed to be of no essence, Faith realized a short while later. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that shrieks and the snarls had eventually faded into silence, Faith would’ve thought that she was running in a hamster’s wheel.
That thought made Faith’s stomach twist into a knot, and so she sat onto a path to catch her breath.
Suddenly an unexpected snapping noise jerked her to attention, as a huge male lion with a luxuriant mane stepped onto the path. And while the she-wolf had produced the impression of being secretly sick with some internal disease that eventually brought her to insanity, this beast was the perfect – perfectly healthy – instrument of violence and murder. “Oh, no,” Faith groaned. Just how was she to defeat this monstrosity?
The lion, for its part, saw no reason to dilly-dally, as it roared and lunged at Faith with its’ maw opened wide. Faith barely had time to put-up her fork in a shield-like position before the lion chomped down on it, and started trying to shake Faith off it, in the same way that a dog shakes a rat. “What’s the matter is it stupid or something?” Faith wondered, and then realized that that was indeed the matter: while in the she-wolf’s eyes some intelligence was seen, albeit only a poor and twisted version of such, the lion’s golden-yellow eyes betrayed nothing but violence and rage. And Faith knew how to deal with nothing but violence and rage.
With all of her fear suddenly vanishing, Faith started to vault over the beast, pulling the pitchfork in dispute with and after her.
The lion didn’t let go in time, and so the two of them rolled on the ground, finally slamming into a tree-trunk. For a short second, both combatants seemed to be stunned from the impact, but Faith recovered first and stabbed, catching the lion’s right paw between the fork’s prongs as she stabbed the tree with all of her strength, driv-ing the prongs completely into the wood – and effectively nailing the lion to the giant plant as well.
The lion flailed with its other three paws, but it was caught hard – and Faith didn’t stick around, but rather fled once again into the woodland, determined to find-out the way out of this mess.
And soon, her attempts met with success, as she finally began to see good, honest sunlight in all the sylvan gloom. Could it be that she was out of the woods-?
Suddenly the forest floor before her exploded in a flurry of activity – and fangs and claws – but it was not another lion. Instead, as Faith belatedly realized, as she stared as this latest threat’s mottled pelt, this was a very handsome leopard.
Well, handsome might not be the right word for it, as its eyes, its complete facial expression, demonstrated that this beast boasted a fully functional mental set – and it was a nasty one.
“Let me pass,” Faith said calmly. “I demand that you let me pass!”
The leopard just hissed, in resemblance of an overgrown wildcat and swiped forwards. Faith twisted away, but realized what the leopard was doing – it was going to try and force her back into the forest, where she was probably hunted by the devils, the she-wolf, the lion and who knows what else.
“I said,” Faith said, stopping fully and looking at the cat right in the eye, “let me pass.”
The leopard jumped in full silence, aiming for Faith’s face and throat. But the girl jumped to the left and to the front, avoiding the collision, and landing just a bit further towards the exit of the forest.
But the leopard wasn’t finished with her yet, as it silently and quickly whirled around and lunged onto her back. But…
Ever since she had entered the forest, Faith was moving ever forwards, away from the yawning gates of Hell, and now she had even less intent of stopping and duking it out with the great cat. Consequently, as soon as she had landed away from the leopard, she didn’t break her strike.
But the leopard didn’t seem to be very much deterred, but instead, it lunged forwards once more, its’ claws fully out and outstretched.
And then Faith caught her momentum and jumped.
And her jump took her clearly out of the forest.
It was very cold amongst the peaks and steep slopes of the Iron Hills; very cold and very snowy, but the two interlocutors were un-affected by the blistering weather.
But then again, why should they be? They weren’t humans; they were Maia, angel-like spirits of Arda and Valinor. Well, one of them was, anyways. Her name was Melian. The other used to be a Maiar too, but for a long time now she was not considered such at all.
Her name was Thuringwethil, “the woman of the secret shadow”, and she was the first vampire of ever!
“So Melian, why you have come to talk?” she spoke to the other spirit. “I thought that ever since Valinor has fallen into the dark-ness, we have completely fallen out of favor there.”
“And whose fault was it?” Melian said a trifle sharply. “You could have redeemed yourself back then, instead you caused this!”
“We did not! Tulkas did!”
“He did not! Everybody knows that your master have stabbed the trees, and Ungoliant has drained them dry!”
“Oh? Care to come back and share it with everybody? For some reason, no one believes that Ungoliant could have turned vegetarian.”
“No,” Melian shook her head. “This isn’t why I am here – I am here for you.”
“Oh?” Thuringwethil froze and stared at Melian. “What do you mean?”
“It’s not too late for you to repent, Thuringwethil. Eonwe is still willing to put a good word for you, and you can still be redeemed. After all, there’s nothing for you in Morgoth’s court, there was no reason for you to join with him in the first place!”
After shouting the last piece, Melian fell silent. In fact, everything fell silent around her and Thuringwethil – and it was the calmness of the eye of the storm, the most dangerous ever place for anyone to be.
“Tell me, Melian, girlfriend,” Thuringwethil’s voice was surprisingly mild; “do you remember how this whole hostility has started?”
Melian looked embarrassed. “We don’t talk about that back there, you know that!”
“Then I’ll tell you what has happened,” Thuringwethil’s voice turned bitter as acid. “Somebody back then had invented chaos, and ruined Eru’s perfect concord!”
“No, Melian,” Thuringwethil’s face got distorted in a vampire’s trademark shark-like grin. “Me. I was the one who created that bear that crashed into Big Boss, and it was because of me, that this whole opposition movement got started. Melko is just spearheading it, yes.”
“You’re lying, you have pushed me out of the way-“
“Because you were my friend,” Thuringwethil shook her head. “And you don’t remember what happened after that, right? Iluvatar’s vengeance was brutal and terrible; he has twisted my self beyond belief. And because of that, I cannot make peace with him, no!”
“But you can’t take on Him!”
“No. Not yet. Not alone. But you know something? This will change! I can create life, and I will. But you are going to be the beginning of it, yes!”
“Oh yes. You stretched out a helping hand to me, and now you are mine!..”
Faith shook her head, trying to clear it. “That was one weird vision,” she said to herself.
“What’s so weird about it, girlfriend? ‘What Eru has forsaken and hollowed, that is ours’, remember?” a very familiar voice spoke be-hind the dark-haired Slayer.
Faith slowly turned. Behind her stood her fellow Vampire Slayer, Buffy Summers, dressed heavily, and carrying a knife. Her knife. Their knife. The knife given to Faith by the Mayor, and taken by Buffy.
Or rather, relinquished by Faith when she saved Wesley from getting eaten by the last escaped Gavrock monster. Why, she wasn’t sure, and now it came to haunt her. Again.
“B, what are you doing here?” Faith said.
“Ah, but Faith, do you know where ‘here’ is?”
Faith looked around and did a double-take. “This is not really the Sunnydale cemetery, is it?” she said, worried for some reason.
“No,” Buffy shook her head, as her face got distorted into a somewhat familiar-looking grimace, and her eyes lit-up with a cold green flame. “This is your cemetery, for this is the place that you’ll die!”
Faith momentarily froze, then fled, for B, truthfully said, was her greatest fear.
No, that was not so, Faith realized. Ever since she had staked Kakistos, she never truly feared anyone or anything; although the Mayor had weirded her out enough times to cut close. And even now she was not properly afraid, but rather concerned that the other Slayer will be able to carry-out her threat.
The other Slayer? Faith started to run slower but think harder.
Maybe not so, maybe this was not B, but someone – or something – else, just like this was not a true cemetery, but someplace else…
At that moment, the ground underneath Faith’s feet vanished and she tumbled into an open, unburied grave.
Buffy appeared, smirking, above her, just as Faith got back on her feet. “Checkmate,” the blonde said simply, as she lunged down onto Faith.
“No!” Faith yelled, as she lunged back upwards, slamming the other female into the pit’s side. “I don’t think so!”
The blow should’ve knocked the wind out of Buffy, but the girl ap-peared unaffected and now angry.
“You can’t kill me, Faith – I am your doom!” she yelled, as the nails on her free suddenly lengthened into dagger-like claws.
“Yeah, right!” Faith was now smirking as she swatted away the clawed hand with her own arm, and then smashed the faux-Buffy into the ribs. Hard.
Again, this blow seemed to have no effect on the blonde, but she now dropped the dagger, and grew claws on her other hand too.
“You can’t kill me!” she lashed at Faith with all of her claws, snarling.
“Yes I can!” Faith dropped to the floor, picked-up the knife, and stabbed with it – right into faux-Buffy’s heart.
A second paused. “You can’t kill me with that,” faux-Buffy smirked.
That smirk, though, turned into a grimace of great pain, as Faith ripped the knife out of the wound, leaving a wide, ripped, irregular swath left in the faux-Buffy’s torso from which tendrils of flesh and fragments of bones appeared.
“Smirk this off!” Faith said, before faux-Buffy had time to recover, stabbing with her knife – this time at the blonde’s neck – and the great, serrated blade cut cleanly and neatly through flesh and bone once again – literally dropping the head off the shoulders.
And as both of the parts fell down, they burst into flame and burned down to ashes that were washed away and lost in the mud by the falling rain.
“Yes!” Faith yelled and leaped out of the grave. “I am back!!”
And as if being a witness to that statement, lightning flashed down on earth and Faith…
…was back in her bed. Awakened, and aware of her surroundings for the first time in a long while.
“I am back,” she whispered quietly. “I am back.”And so it was written: once upon a time two of a kind will battle each other, and one of them shall fall, and yet will rise once again, having walked back through the one-way path of the Afterlife, challenging and defeating the path’s guardians, and in the end – her greatest challenge, the one who sent her there…
As Faith slowly took-in her surroundings, her extra-keen Slayer senses took-in something else, something new – car sirens. Well, that by itself was not new, but these were ambulance sirens, not police ones, and that was unusual. Plus, Faith’s intuition told her that this ambulance warranted a close approach.
Slowly and stealthily she got onto her feet. Good. Currently, nothing restricted her, but an IV monitor, and a good kick soon fixed that. Even better.
Now actually smiling, Faith slowly got out of her room, intent on acquiring some new clothes for herself…
Most people do not appreciate when they are awakened after midnight, but Joyce Summers was not like most people; rather, she was happy that a call came that way – it was presumably from her daughter or her daughter’s friends, and that was good.
Unfortunately, it was not quite so this time. “Excuse me, is this Mrs. Joyce Summers?” a cultured, masculine voice said.
“Yes, who is it?” Joyce said, very afraid.
“This is Dr. Stafford, from the Sunnydale hospital.”
“Oh my God. Is it something about Buffy?”
“We’re afraid so. Your daughter just came in, she just had a stroke.”
“But-but she’s too young!”
“Yes, well, apparently the stroke resulted from her having an allergic reaction towards something. Does your daughter have any allergies?”
“None that I am aware off; I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Thank you,” Dr. Stafford said, and hanged-up.
And then he turned to his nurse – his “second-in-command”, so to say, and spoke: “Contact the Watchers’ Council. They need to know about this.”
The nurse hurriedly left.
Joyce Summers did indeed arrive in the Sunnydale hospital at a record time, flustered, concerned, and a bit angry. “What is going on?” she demanded from the nearest person. “Where can I find Dr. Stafford?”
“Mrs. Summers,” she heard a familiar voice and turned around to face Willow Rosenberg. “You’re here!”
“Willow! What has happened to Buffy? Is it-?”
“No, no, we were studying, and suddenly she just froze, and fell, and started to twitch, and I thought that it was epilepsy, but the university’s doctors, and the hospital’s doctors-“
“Excuse me, but are you Joyce Summers? I am doctor Stafford,” a masculine voice cut through Willow’s babbling.
Both women turned around and saw, a tall, powerfully built man, with dark hair and moustache looking at them.
“Yes, that is me,” Joyce said, babbling a bit herself.
“Well then, follow me, for we need to talk,” Dr. Stafford said.
Wordlessly, Joyce and Willow followed him.
“Yes, Mr. Collins, this is correct. The Slayer Faith hasn’t yet recovered from coma, but the Slayer Buffy has just collapsed from some medical cause, like stroke. That’s right; she came to our hospital less than two hours ago. Oh, you are departing right away? Thank you sir, I’ll tell Cliff right away!”
The nurse hanged the phone, turned around, and saw the Slayer Faith. The one that was supposed to be in a coma.
That was the last thought of the nurse for a while though, as Faith slapped her in the face, using just a small portion of her Slayer-strength, knocking her cold nonetheless.
“The rumors of my coma were greatly exaggerated,” Faith told the unconscious female, dragging her down into the basement.
“So, doctor, what is really with my daughter? Willow thought that it was epilepsy of some sort-“
“No it isn’t. Fortunately. Apparently your daughter had an allergic reaction-“
“But Buffy doesn’t have any allergies! In fact, she is a very healthy girl, lives an active lifestyle-“
“Mrs. Summers, please. Apparently – judging from the pumped con-tents of her stomach – your daughter does have an allergy towards the guava tree.”
“The guava. You know, a small tree, grown mainly in Florida, has fruit like green pears in my opinion? Well, your daughter has an allergy towards it – a rather severe one, too.”
“But she- but we-“
“Were never in Florida nor in any other contact with the guavas,” Dr. Stafford concluded. “Thus the lack of knowledge – am I correct?”
“Yes, but that’s not the point-“
“No, it isn’t,” Dr. Stafford agreed and looked into the corridor. “Has anybody seen Leslie?” he shouted.
After a generally negative reply came back, he just sighed. “I guess she gotten lost – again,” he added with irritation, “and at a most inopportune moment, too.”
“Is there a problem?” Joyce said, still not quite aware of her sur-roundings.
“Then can I see my daughter?”
“Yes, and follow me.”
The nurse Leslie opened her eyes. She was in the hospital’s basement or rather – a chamber apparently adjacent to it.
And she had company.
“Yo, Mikey – Mikey, Mikey, where are you?” Faith yelled-out, her voice resonating loudly through the chamber, before she turned back to Leslie. “Hey Watcher-Agent, where’s Mikey and his ‘Monkeys’?”
“Firstly, I am just an Associate – Local Associate, and secondly those ghoulish creatures were cleaned-out by the real Agents a while ago,” Leslie said with a bit of pride and defiance in her voice.
Faith’s face drooped. “They are gone? Really gone? Then who has taken-over-“
Faith’s voice trailed off, and she jumped away, taking Leslie with just in time, as the new monster attacked.
Both women stared, as the creature rotated on the spot, preparing to strike again. Its body shape was that of a tarantula-like spider, but the forelegs were replaced by a set of long pincers and a very long scorpion's tail. The body itself was chitinous, but tufts of hair, again like those of a tarantula, grew out of the joints where the chitin plates meet. The creature's eight eyes were a dull black that seemed to reflect no light at all.
“A cildabrin,” Faith whispered more surprised, than scared. “That will do even better!”
“What are you talking about-“Leslie began to say, just as the cildabrin lashed once again with its’ tail.
And Faith caught it. Instantly, the creature tried to retreat, but Faith dug-in her heels and didn’t bulge. “No!” she said firmly. “Bad cildabrin, bad!”
The creature froze, and then seemingly drooped.
Instantly Faith’s demeanor also changed, now looking kinder. “No, not bad. Naughty. A naughty cildabrin, all alone and having noth-ing to eat but dead flesh and old bones. Very old bones. Want to go with me, lonely cildabrin? I’ll find you fresh food to eat, yes – fresh, lively food. Will you go?” and she released the stinger.
Breath froze in Leslie’s throat… and then a minute passed, and then another one.
And then cildabrin almost bowed in submission.
“Excellent,” Faith smiled. “Now let’s go.”
“To pick the last member of our team.”
Leslie opened her mouth and then closed it. A renegade Slayer with a new pet cildabrin was not someone she wanted to cross, and so she followed them instead.Cildabrin. First appearance: the Roman Empire. Origin: created [transmogrified] from tarantula spiders and various scorpions. Thus, it possesses both the scorpion’s pincers and stinger and the spider’s spinnerets and fangs. Moderately intelligent and extremely agile for its’ size [large]. Current status and distribution – uncommon, underground. Organization – solitary. Extremely dangerous and must be handled with caution. Supposedly untrainable.
-- The Watchers’ Encyclopedia of Aberrations, letter “C”
“Hey Willow, Willow!” Giles’ voice sounded unsteady in the hospi-tal’s corridor. “How’s Buffy?”
“She’s okay now,” Willow didn’t sound too steady herself, but was sounding more tired than worried. “It was touch and go for a while there, you guys, but now she’s okay.” She paused and added. “Well, except for the guava allergy, but that’s weird rather than scary.”
“Thank goodness,” both of the males looked clearly relieved. “And how’s Mrs. Summers taking it?” Xander added.
“Better than we feared,” Willow said, now with an actual rueful grin, as she sat next to her friends. “She and doctor Stafford are now talking about paperwork rather than life-in-danger stuff.”
“Excuse me,” a young man dressed as a hospital intern came over to the trio. “Did you say Stafford? Is a nurse named Leslie with him?”
“No, he’s alone. Not “alone” alone, of course, but no nurse.”
“Thanks,” the intern nodded and walked-away, muttering something under his breath.
Xander and Giles looked at Willow. “You think a vampire got her?” Willow said, feeling rather uncomfortable.
Giles began to clean his glasses. “Unlikely. A vampire comes to the hospital’s vicinity to feed quite rarely, and never on the people that would be missed. Our nurse just probably got derailed by some other doctor.” He paused and added. “And frankly, I don’t have the heart to go and find out, let alone slay something.”
Neither Xander nor Willow could argue with that.
Faith and Leslie stood before a ramshackle house, with the cildabrin looming behind them. “Now what?” Leslie asked.
Faith just smiled and knocked on the door.
A disheveled male opened the door, saw Faith, and tried to jump back, but the Slayer caught him by the collar and pulled inside. “Not so fast, you owe me,” she said, almost sweetly.
“Look, I haven’t been doing any oozes, not since that axiomatic grey ooze,” the male tried to protest.
“Sure you weren’t; those skitterhaunts were just naturally dwelling in all those tunnels,” Faith said sarcastically, “not to mention those assassin jellies, yes?”
“Look, you can’t pin anything on me anymore-“
“I am not here to pin things on you; I am here to have you use your skills!”
“I need a mass of airjellies. Can you deliver?”
The male blinked. “Sure, I can deliver them within ten minutes. But why do you need them? They are nearly useless, and they tend to attract-“
“Oh, just get ready and prepared,” Faith interrupted him. “I am going to teach the Watchers’ Council a lesson, and you are going to help me do that?”
“And if I refuse?” the male squeaked weakly.
Faith gestured. The cildabrin moved into the male’s area of vision.
“Alright, I am in,” the man squeaked.
“Good. Then let’s get prepared.”
To say that Dr. Stafford was tired, would be a mislead. Rather, he was exhausted, but this exhaustion was mental, rather than physical, and generously spiced by irritation as well.
Where was Leslie? His fellow Associate was never too punctual, but never goofed-off either without a good cause…
With a sinking feeling Stafford dialed the number himself and got an answering machine. Great. The operatives must have gone onto a different call, and Leslie decided to goof-off again. Marvelous. And that meant that she’ll resurface when she’ll decide to, and not a moment less. Das ist fantastish.
Dr. Stafford listened to the recording of the Watcher-Operatives one more time and slammed down the receiver, turning to stare at the full moon of tonight.
Just his luck. Now it was getting obscured by the clouds.
“Willow, you okay?” Joyce asked the younger woman, as she was dropping her off at the university’s dorm.
“No, not really. It’s just that it was so sudden, so unexpected, you know? I mean, a vampire or a demon attack is one thing, but this is something else. And guavas, I mean, really, how silly is that?” she paused and added, looking at the older woman. “I, of course, meant no disrespect-“
“That’s okay,” Joyce said, almost smiling. “I once knew a man that had a most violent allergy to granite, but otherwise was healthier than a horse.”
“Really? How he handled it?”
“Easy. Never touched any granite with naked skin, or breathed-in any granite dust.” Joyce paused and added. “I guess it’s going to be the same with my Buffy – I mean, there aren’t many guavas in California, yes?”
“Well, unless you consider a greengrocer’s shop, but then again, I never seen too many here in Sunnydale; plus aren’t they really used as jams and jellies?”
“Yes, quite, oh it’s your stop… and who’s your friend?” added Joyce warily, slowly pulling a cross from her purse.
Willow looked. “Oh, this is Tara. She and I are friends, and she helped us with Buffy, sort of.”
“H-hey Willow, and who’s this?” Tara asked, sounding uneasy herself.
“Hello Tara, I’m Buffy’s mother, Joyce,” Joyce Summers decided to break the ice.
“O-oh! W-well, nice to meet you; t-too bad that it was like this. Is she okay?”
“She’ll probably come home after a couple of days in the hospital,” Joyce replied.
“O-oh! W-well, that’s good… h-home? N-not h-here?”
“Probably not,” Joyce shook her head. “Not straight away, the doctors said.”
“O-oh! W-well, that’s good… er, would you like a cup of green tea?” Tara said.
Joyce sighed, and said, rather wearily. “Yes please. I could use something to soothe the nerves.”
The helicopter was flying with a relative quiet through the night with a speed unexpected from a helicopter as well.
“Well, this is going to be interesting,” the Operatives’ leader said to his co-members. “And I wonder why Collins didn’t volunteer to go. Usually, he’s the first to do, with Smythe right behind him.”
“I think that’s ‘cause their pal Weatherby was acting-up,” another Operative said.
“Weatherby is always acting-up, ever since he almost got caught by that brine dragon,” the last man said. “Still, he didn’t seem to be too crazy when they were dealing with that swarm polymorph, now did he?” He paused, thinking. “And say, didn’t the last time Weatherby acted-up was almost two or three years ago by now?”
“You try to suck-up to him too much,” the leader said. “Everything is going to go smoothly, we’ll scoop-up the weakened Summers and be off.”
“Right,” the hesitant man said. But he still didn’t sound very sure.
“You know, it is very generous of you to offer me to stay for the night,” Joyce told Willow with a small smile. “I didn’t really relish spending the night alone knowing that Buffy was in the hospital, you know?”
“Yeah, I know,” Willow replied.
“And Willow, can I ask you something?”
“Willow?” Tara called-out, “can you come over for a moment?”
“Wait a sec,” Willow quickly said and went out of the small kitchen.
Joyce, however, followed her.
“Uh, Willow, we need to talk,” Tara nervously said. “It’s about Buffy. She’s-“
“What about her?” Joyce spoke sharply from behind the red-head. “She’s not cursed, is she?”
To Tara’s credit, she dealt with the shock much better than expect. “N-no, M-Mrs. Summers. But there was a magical backslash a while back… only it was not related to B-Buffy at all.”
“Well, that’s a load off my back,” Joyce said, relieved. “For I was worried that this was Catherine Madison all over again.”
Tara looked blank. “Catherine Madison? W-Who’s she?”
Willow sighed and began to explain.
And as she, Tara and Joyce talked; no one of them heard the helicopter flying overhead.
“Great, where is that Associate?” the Operative leader was grumbling, as he and another man were walking into the shadowy side street. “She was here when we were landing.”
“Yeah. If our pilot didn’t feel edgy, we probably wouldn’t be searching for her,” the other man agreed with a barking laugh, then froze. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” the Operative leader asked, as he turned around – and died, as the cildabrin’s stinger lashed-out, catching him neatly in the back.
The second Operative had time to fire his crossbow (the bolt just skiddled-off the cildabrin’s armor), before the stinger caught him in the chest and he died too.
But this shot was heard by the third man, the helicopter’s pilot, and so the helicopter frantically flew-up… until something grabbed it from behind, and ripped the helicopter open. A cloud of poisonous gas descended onto the exposed man… and he didn’t feel the tentacles grasping him… or the giant beak chopping down onto him.Zyern. First appearance: unknown. Origin: unknown [Atlantis, possible ancestors – squid, cuttlefish]. Looks like a giant flying cuttlefish with only six tentacles. Also can artificially induce fear, similar to dragon-fear, in other creatures [including Man]. Moderately intelligent and extremely agile for its’ size [gargantuan]. Current status and distribution – unknown, any air. Organization – solitary. Extremely deadly and should be avoided at all costs. Absolutely untrainable.
-- The Watchers’ Encyclopedia of Aberrations, letter “Z”
Airjellies are a type of small ooze that can be found in any sky… can actually grow from a small ooze to a colossal creature… little more than a bag of electric vapor with some skin and tentacles externally… pretty much useless…
-- Warren’s notes of oozes and Co.
“And so, An, you’re not mad about having to pick me up so late – or rather early?” Xander asked Anya, his somewhat-girlfriend and an ex-vengeance demon.
“No,” Anya shook her head. “After all, if Buffy was cursed we should all know about it.”
“An, Buffy was not cursed,” Xander said firmly.
“Oh really? Then why-“
At that moment something happened that the two of them later would be able to recollect only as – “something whitish went splat over the front of the car and we got zapped and blacked-out.” – an abrupt message, and one excluding facts like that their car went skidding out of control, crashing a light-post, or that vast wave of terror that hit that street a few moments later, caused by the zyern flying above it.
But Xander and Anya were unconscious – and thus they didn’t react to the zyern’s presence and weren’t eaten. Rupert Giles on the other hand didn’t, but he was inside, and so he went and hid in the bathroom – so shaken he was – and didn’t leave it until three hours later. Needless to say, his research was interrupted, for he did leave the bathroom he fell asleep from the nervous exhaustion.
“Oh my God, what is that thing?” Leslie whispered, as she and the others were hiding in some warehouse.
“A zyern,” Faith said simply, as if it explained everything.
“And where did it come from?”
“Generally speaking, nobody really knows nor cares,” Faith said, “but this one came because of the airjellies – it eats them, you know?”
“It seems to like humans better,” the woman gulped.
“Hey, it’s an aberration what do you expect from it?” Faith shrugged. “But on the plus side it’ll be gone from here by sunrise – if it hasn’t done so already.”
“Right. And then what?”
Faith merely smiled and stared at the warehouse’s eastmost wall, as if she could (couldn’t she?) see the first rays of the sun break over the horizon. “We go and build a new world,” she finally said, “we go in another way and we build a new world.”And so it was written: once upon a time two of a kind will battle each other, and one of them shall fall, and yet will rise once again, having walked back through the one-way path of the Afterlife, challenging and defeating the path’s guardians, and in the end – her greatest challenge, the one who sent her there… And once she does that, she will recover the knowledge of her past, and the centuries-old covenant will be broken, and the world will be completely changed…
End of “Awakened Faith”.