Should you believe everything that's foretold?
The hot sun
warmed her skin as she made her way from the garage to the kitchen, but did nothing
to warm her inside. She felt empty, cold and alone. It was not a new sensation
for her; being the chosen one had been a burden she had gladly shared with the
other girls, only to wonder later if she had been selfish in her desire to
spread the power. Had she only done it to make her job easier?
Martha," she called to the housekeeper, pulling out one of the chrome
chairs and sitting tiredly down on the white cushion. A mug of hot coffee
appeared magically in front of her, and Buffy took it gratefully. The
housekeeper must have heard her car pull into the yard, and Buffy thanked her
for the drink.
should sleep," Martha told her. "You'll make yourself ill if you
don't try and rest."
her head. She didn't need to explain to the older woman, but there was so much
still to do. Not only sorting out the aftermath of the near apocalypse, but
there was still no sign of Angel and she had searched everywhere...
want something to eat?"
thank you, Martha... I'm not hungry." She saw the frown appear on Martha's
face and she knew a lecture was forthcoming. She stood up, her mug in hand, and
said, "I'm going to see if Giles has any news. Thanks for the
to say something, but changed her mind, and Buffy made her way down the hall to
Giles's study. The house was the same as it had always been, if a little
bruised by the recent onslaught of the paranormal, but now it felt rather
surreal because it was so quiet and empty. The door to the study stood open and
Buffy went inside.
she asked hopefully, already knowing what he was going to say.
sorry," Giles replied, and Buffy felt a pang of compassion for him; he
looked as though he hadn't slept at all in the previous week, and in fact, she
doubted that he had slept much. Neither had she; they had tried every
lead they could think of to locate Angel, but he seemed to have dropped off the
face of the earth. She knew Angel well enough to know that if he didn't want
to be found, it wasn't going to be very easy. But at least they had found no
reports of a crazed vampire on the loose, so hopefully he hadn't hurt anybody.
The study was
a complete mess, and it was that as much as anything else that worried her. Books
and papers piled the desk, scribbled messages, newspapers, a half-drunk cup of
tea. Not only was Giles helping her to find Angel, he was doggedly keeping busy
so that he wouldn't have to cope with his feelings about Ella. He needed
to be busy, and he was also helping - somewhat unofficially - the local
services, who had some downright strange things to deal with, and no
idea how to explain to their superiors what had been going on.
Work for the
Project was beginning to trickle in as word got round that there was somebody
local who knew what to do about all the odd stuff that had been happening, and
Giles embraced the extra activity eagerly. For Buffy, it was an unwelcome
distraction that just got in the way of finding Angel.
pouring in from round the world asking for help, suggestions and explanations.
People had been frightened of the recent phenomena at first, fearing that the
end was nigh, but when things began to die down they hid their fear and tried
to rationalise what had happened. The papers had a field day, with all kinds of
explanations from meteors to freak weather, and in some quarters dire rumblings
of ‘military experiments' abounded. The
Global warming brigade had been vocal with grim warnings of the effects of
Greenhouse gasses on the planet. If Buffy had not already seen in Sunnydale how
often denial set in after some major calamitous event was unexplained, she
might have been surprised at the lack of public enquiry.
two hours Buffy sat in the study with Giles, keeping him company and helping
him search, until fatigue finally drove her to retreat back to the flat. She
hoped, as she did every time that she returned, that Angel had somehow managed
to find his way back home again and would be waiting for her.
on the sofa bed and laid her head on the cushions. Where was he? Was he still
alive? Oh, Angel...
rubbed against her left leg, and the gentle pressure made her smile. "Come
on, then," she smiled, and the ginger cat jumped up on the sofa and rubbed
against her thigh. She scratched the back of his neck and let him curl against
her. Before Angel left, Aristotle had been an infrequent visitor to the flat;
but ever since... that night... he had been coming much more often. She liked to
think that he was keeping her company, but she had the uneasy suspicion that
there was something uncomfortable about the house and he just preferred to stay
away from it. She knew she was being silly, and suspected it was probably
something more mundane that drove Ari to visit her. The arrival of Zillah had
confused him, and as a neutered male he had been unsure of how to deal with the
interloper on his territory. Giles thought it was likely he was just staying
out of her way.
him too, don't you boy?" she asked, more to break the silence in the room
than any other reason; slowly, the cat's gentle purring worked its magic, and
she drifted into a shallow, restless sleep.
Buffy..." Giles appeared at the door of the flat early the next morning, showered
and smart. Buffy, still groggy from her fretful slumber, blinked at the
apparition, and hope surged through her.
she asked hopefully.
uncomfortable. "I'm afraid not. I have an urgent case to take care of, and
I need to go to Hereford. The address is in the study if you need me." He
hesitated, "I suppose you wouldn't want to come with me?"
should stay here in case Angel... in case somebody needs us," she told him
primly. She was a little put out that he was running off to sort out somebody
else's problem. As if reading her mind, Giles soothed, "We could do with
the money, Buffy. This is a big place to run, and with the extra expenses
lately... well, I can't really afford to turn it down."
to get your priorities right," she replied irritably.
so," Giles agreed amicably. "Now, I really must be off. Will you be
big girl," she replied. "I don't need a babysitter."
good," Giles replied distractedly, already backing out of the flat.
"I should be back in a day or so."
Buffy muttered as she heard him hurrying down the outside steps. "And then
there was one."
had slept in her clothes, again, she headed for the bathroom and turned on the
later, showered, refreshed and dressed, she found herself seated in front of
her laptop looking for clues on Angel's whereabouts.
another fruitless morning looking for the missing vampire; no news, no emails,
no leads of any description. Martha's husband John visited the flat and asked
for her assistance. Buffy suspected that he was attempting to keep her busy
while Giles was away, but it was good to feel useful and it was true
that John had a lot of repairs to do on the house. At least it felt as though
she was being of some help to somebody.
The drive up
to Hereford was an unpleasant experience for Giles. He had far too much time to
think; too much time to mourn the loss of another woman close to his heart. Too
much time to think about twenty innocent girls that he would forever regret not
being able to save; too much time to wonder what had happened to the vampire,
and speculate on what might have happened if Angel had not done what he'd had
swallowed down a rising sense of nausea and concentrated on the drive. He had
been called in for some happenings at a new house that was being built at a
place called Ross-on-Wye. The workers were unhappy because a local legend
foretold that anybody seeing a specific ghost would die very soon after. Two of
the workers on site had seen the ghost, and had, in fact, both died
within three days.
faced a beautiful river, and according to the legend, was very close to the
believed location of the haunting. The building was quiet for the weekend, and
the workers had been sent home early. He'd been asked if he could exorcise the
ghost over the weekend so that work could restart on Monday. The only person on
the site when Giles arrived was Matthew Barker, site foreman, and he had only
stayed behind to show Giles the general area of where the ghost had been seen -
though nobody knew exactly.
After Mathew made a retreat fast
enough for Giles to wonder if he too was worried about seeing the apparition,
he began his search for the apparently spiteful spectre.
After a lengthy walk along the
beautiful riverbank without any sign of anything untoward, Giles sat down on a
rustic wooden seat and placed his bag down next to him to go over what he knew
about the legend.
The woman was seen coming down
the river in her little boat. She always travelled fast, no matter what the
current was like, and her boat seemed to skim across the water. She got out of
her boat at a place that used to be an ancient village but is no longer there;
she would then be heard wailing in distress, before returning to her boat and
carrying on down the river.
Giles had seen
several places that might fit the bill of what he knew of the story, but
without evidence he had no option other than to perform a ritual of exposure.
It would do no good attempting to do an exorcism in the wrong spot - it had to
his bag, he pulled out his bag of ready-prepared herbs and spices; a small
packet of newts' eyes and a jar of his own homemade powder, especially created
for a ritual such as this.
Five times in
different places he performed the ritual, and five times he had no response.
Maybe there was nothing to see? Maybe somebody thought they had seen the ghost,
and the other workers had picked up on that? He bent to get another bag of
herbs from his bag, and saw... something in his peripheral vision. His
head snapped up, and there she was... the woman he was looking for. Somehow he
had expected her to look... ethereal, transparent but she looked solid enough.
Transfixed, he watched the little boat skim across the water and stop at a
place on the riverbank about a 100-feet from where he stood. He could hear her
heart-wrenching wails of despair, and his arms came up in sympathetic
goosebumps. He watched her laboured return to the boat and subsequent sad
journey down the river. He caught his breath as she passed him, his skin buzzed
with her presence, so close that he could clearly see her face. Her expression
was so anguished that it disturbed him, and he wondered what it must be like to
spend eternity forever reliving such a horrible experience. He liked to think
that what he was about to do would finally give her some peace.
Just after she
had passed him, he saw the spirit fade gently away. There was a vague shimmer
as she vanished, and he was somewhat relieved when the buzzing on his skin
disappeared alongside her. It was a moment before he could make himself walk
toward the spot on the bank where she had alighted, and he felt strangely
lethargic. He was aware that ghost sightings sometimes left the onlooker with
physical or psychic symptoms, so was not unduly concerned.
By the time
that Giles had finished his ritual, it was heading for late afternoon. He had
been a little disappointed that nothing much had happened on completing his
task, a nice bit of ghost retaliation would have been a pleasant change of
pace. Still, he had seen the ghost, which was an achievement in itself;
he was looking forward to getting home and writing it up in his diary.
packed and finished, he headed back to the car.
"So you saw
her, then?" Buffy asked him curiously as she perched herself on the edge of
"I did, yes,"
"What was she
Giles carried on unpacking his
bag as he talked with her. He pondered her question, and said, "Sad. And
Giles thought she was referring to the ghost, but then he looked up in
curiosity. "Of what?"
the legend, you're now going to die horribly."
Giles gave her
a reproving glare. "It said nothing about horribly," he reminded her.
"And that is just a myth. The
workers died only because they believed in it - I do not. We've seen far more than this in our time,
"I guess," she
gave him a sleepy yawn. "You must be tired, so I'll let you turn in." She got
up from the edge of the desk. "Night, Giles."
again as she passed by, and Giles said innocently, "Thank you for thinking
about my well-being."
The smile he received
was sugar-sweet. "You know me - always thinking of others."
And it was others
that she thought about on the short walk back to the flat. Where was he?
Another restless night saw her
back at the house first thing in the morning. John's car was in the yard, so it
was surprising that Martha wasn't in the kitchen. Buffy went down the hall
toward Giles's study, and found the housekeeper coming down the stairs. She was
about to say hello, when she saw the worried expression on the older woman's
Buffy," Martha replied, her expression changing immediately to a more cheerful
one. "I'm sure it's nothing, but Mr. Giles is unwell this morning."
"He seems to
have a bit of a fever. I'm going to see if I can get the doctor out."
through into the study to make her call, and Buffy bounded up the stairs to see
She found him
in his bed, propped up with pillows, and looking very sorry for himself. He
looked up when she entered, and gave her a weak smile.
you're only doing this to get out of doing any work," she teased him. "Where
did this come from?"
"I expect I've
just picked up a summer cold," he told her, wheezing painfully. "Or possibly
herself on the edge of his bed to exchange idle talk, but after a while Giles
could see that she was growing restless and fidgety, and he sent her off to get
on with her tasks. And anyway, he reasoned, the last thing he wanted was for
her to get this nasty strain of flu - the last time she'd had flu, she'd ended
up in hospital.
herself with helping John with his heavier repairs, cleaning her flat,
searching the web for clues of Angel's whereabouts and answering any phone
calls meant for Giles. She even offered to do some shopping for Martha, because
she didn't want to leave Giles unattended. The doctor had clucked a lot, and
declared Giles had a ‘particularly rampant strain of influenza' and said it was
really a matter of letting nature take its course.
Some of the
goods had taken longer to track down than she had anticipated, and when she
returned there was nobody in the kitchen. Keen to help, Buffy put away all the
goods where she hoped that they went, and then made her way upstairs to see
She smiled at the
sight of Zillah sitting, washing, under the table on the landing. The elegant
feline was paying meticulous attention to her grooming, and hardly even glanced
at Buffy. As she stepped onto the landing, Martha popped out of Giles's room
and it was obvious that the housekeeper was worried.
"I think you'd
better take a look at this, Miss Buffy." Buffy needed no second telling, and
quickened her pace to his room. She could hear Martha saying behind her, "He's
delirious. Keeps asking why."
good question, Buffy
agreed mentally as she arrived at Giles's bedside. He was feverish and clammy,
and Buffy had an unwelcome flashback to Angel, and how he looked when Faith had
poisoned him. She was brought back to the present when Giles started mumbling
again, and she listened carefully - slayer hearing a definite bonus.
"I'll call the
doctor back," Martha was saying with concern.
"That won't help," Buffy
replied. "This is a mystical illness."
"How can you
asking why, Martha. He's saying Ross-on-Wye." At Martha's incomprehension, she
added, "He's fallen victim to the legend."
at her in horror. "Well, what do we do?"
know! She wanted to
scream, but her leader instincts were pushing themselves forward. "Well, I have
to research this and find out what I can about the legend. There must be a clue
returned to the study to start her research, she couldn't ignore the irony of
the situation - that she was their sole means of information and the
fate of her ex-watcher was in her hands. She was now research gal.
The task ahead
of her looked monstrous. Where to start? She tried to remember which books she
had seen Giles bring back from his trip - presumably, they had reliable info in
them. She dug them out of the bookcase, and sat down to read.
Buffy rubbed her eyes, the words of the Black Chronicles blurring away to
nothing. This was hopeless. How was she supposed to do this on her own? She
didn't know where to start, and she needed Giles. She pulled the book closer,
trying not to think about what it would be like if something happened to him;
and she couldn't stop her thoughts straying to Angel as well, and it was just
too damn much. So much had happened recently, and here in England she didn't
even have the comfort and support of her friends. What was she going to do?
She let her
head droop down on her hands and made no effort to stop the tears. Nobody was
going to see them after all, and she dearly missed the companionship of two men
she loved most in the world.
The study door
pushed open. "Here you are..." Martha was saying. "I've made a nice cup of t..."
She paused at the sight of the weeping girl at Giles's desk, and Buffy sat up
abruptly, unsuccessfully tried to hide her distress from the older woman. "Oh, my dear," she said as she instinctively
moved toward the distressed girl. Hesitating for barely a moment, and normal
English reserve completely forgotten, she wrapped the slayer in a kindly hug.
Buffy tried to
pull back, but somehow she couldn't find the strength, and finally allowed the
kind-hearted woman to comfort her. "There, there," came the soothing noises.
"Don't take on, so..."
managed to extricate herself, Martha handed her the tissue box and said,
"Things will work out."
Buffy gave a
grim smile. "I doubt that. The survival of Giles relies on me. Demons I can
cope with... but research gives me the wiggins. I can't ask my friends to help
and I don't even have the Coven. I don't know what to look for without Giles."
said slowly, clearing a space on the desk and pulling a chair up next to Buffy,
"It seems to me that the task will be easier with two." The bemused slayer
blinked as the housekeeper selected a book and asked, "Have you read this
slayer shook her head and Martha sat down with her chosen book and began to
The rest of
the day passed slowly away, and still it found Buffy with her head buried in a
book. She found a dozen accounts of things that caused mystical illness, and
yet more accounts of how people died after seeing some nasty herald of doom,
but nothing seemed to coincide with what was happening to Giles.
her time between helping Buffy and looking after Giles, and Buffy was grateful
for her help and support; at least this way, she didn't feel so alone.
Buffy was saying to her thoughtfully, it seems to me that there is nothing here
about how a death omen actually causes an illness like this. Usually, they just
fall down dead or have an accident."
"You think his
illness is caused by something else?"
that I should go to Hereford and see the site for myself. Maybe... there is a
poisonous plant in the area or something. I'm going down there in the morning,
have a chat to the foreman."
positive in mind, Buffy felt more optimistic. She noticed that the housekeeper
was looking very tired, and she said kindly, "Thank you, Martha, for helping
here. I can finish here, if you like."
stretched her arms to get some feeling back in them. John had left to get her
some things from home, because she'd wanted to stay the night to keep an eye on
"I have the
supper things to wash up, and then I'll just pop upstairs. You're sure, now?"
"I am," Buffy
confirmed. "Thank you."
to carry on researching as long as she could
- she might still find something to help. How could she sleep while
worrying over Giles and Angel anyway? She heard Martha clearing up in the
kitchen softly singing something that sounded like a lullaby, and Buffy smiled.
her eyes, and wondered anew how Giles managed to spend hours upon hours
researching, alone, and still manage to absorb something.
Buffy turned, intending to remind
Martha not to bother calling her ‘miss' because it made her feel like a maiden
aunt, but was surprised to see her standing there with a bowl. "What is it?"
"I made a
broth to tempt Mr Giles," she was saying, and Buffy nodded, remembering how
delicious it had been. "And I was just about to wash his bowl, but... there's
something in it."
getting up to have a look at the offending bowl. She'd been expecting to see a
fly, or an insect of some kind, but saw instead some tiny orange lumps floating
something they added to the packet?" Buffy suggested.
"I do not use
packets," Martha huffed, sounding vaguely offended. "Nor do I add strange
things when I don't even know what they are."
Buffy began thoughtfully, "Are you saying that you definitely didn't put
what I'm saying," Martha replied.
"Then who did?"
looked at each other for a moment, until the solution struck them both at the
been in the house with us."
still here?" Martha asked, her voice trembling slightly. Buffy shrugged. "Let's find out."
of the house revealed nothing untoward hiding there. But, they did discover
that a window latch on one of the en-suite bathrooms had been snapped off,
proving that something had broken in.
this new evidence thoughtfully. "Martha - when John comes back, ask him to keep
an eye on Giles for me. I don't want you alone until we know who - or what - got
in here. Give him a weapon - he might need to protect himself. I want you to
help me look up what this thing might be. We'll leave the lights on - if John
needs help, I can be upstairs in seconds."
bits in the broth turned out to be Ikha seeds, which Martha found in a
reference book of Demon cookery. While a tasty morsel for many demons, it would
prove fatal if ingested by humans over several meals. Martha was righteously
annoyed that ‘things' should mess with her meals, and at that point, Buffy
didn't fancy the chances of whoever had tried to poison her mentor if Martha
got hold of him.
Buffy went out
into the hall, concerned because something had got into the house this very
evening, and she didn't like that notion at all. She took several steps up the
stairs - she could still see Martha in the study, and called softly, so as not
to disturb Giles, "Everything all right, John?"
miss. Don't you fret."
and was about to go back down the stairs, when she stopped. Zillah was again
under the table, but she was crouching down low, her ears pulled right back,
and staring at a door down the hall. Her tail appeared to have trebled in size,
and all this was enough for Buffy. She vaulted over the banister, and sprinted
down the hall.
the door, she was grabbed by a humanoid demon with four arms that heaved her
against the wall. John came running from the bedroom with a small axe in his
hand to help her.
But this was
Buffy's world; this was something that she knew how to fight, and she used it,
transferring all her hurt and anger into her assault on the demon.
later, the creature lay flat on the floor, all hands raised in surrender, with
one severely pissed off slayer sitting on him.
"What'd you do
the demon responded, but Buffy was in no mood for that, and took John's axe.
learn to speakie the English, buddy, or you'll be in little tiny pieces. Got
prone four-armed creature replied, his voice a dry rasp. Buffy almost wished
he'd talk gibberish again.
"What did you
do?" she snapped, waving the axe for emphasis. Four-arm eyed the weapon warily.
Buffy's alarmed expression, he added hastily, "If he has no further doses he
will recover in a few days."
the axe a little but kept herself on alert. "Why? What has Giles done to you?"
visited our sacred place. It cannot be allowed."
place?" This came from John, who had moved closer in case he was needed.
"He means that
Wye place," Buffy said, looking at the demon for confirmation. "Right?"
on our land. The legend was meant to keep intruders away. I am the last of the
chosen, and it was my duty to protect what is ours. I showed him the lady and
then had to fulfil the prophecy."
"There was no
lady? It was a fake?" Buffy scowled at him. "But, how? What did you do?"
"The woman was
genuine. Her people trespassed on our land, so we eliminated them all. When she
discovered their remains she fled the village, and we allowed her to escape -
but we captured her image to scare away others who would infringe on our
share?" Buffy reasoned. "Wasn't there enough for both?"
growled. "Parasites. All of you. Our sacred place is not to be shared with the
Buffy moved so
fast he hardly saw her arm in motion. The axe sliced straight threw the sinewy
neck and something green and icky spread across the carpet. "Then share this,"
Buffy's embarrassment, Martha spent hours trying to get the green stain out of
the carpet and it now looked as good as new. Giles had recovered his
equilibrium and was now up and about and trying to restore order to his ravaged
study. He told her that while he was recuperating, he had decided to put much
more effort into paranormal investigations, and he had begun advertising in
earnest. They all needed something to occupy themselves and he felt that they
should channel their expertise to where it would do most good. Buffy liked the
idea of having something positive to fill her time with, but she currently had
questions about their recent adventure.
"How did it
know where to find you?"
that the original... projection of the ghost contained a tracer aimed at the recipient.
I did feel very disorientated for a while."
"Did the demon
poison the two workers?"
believe the second death was due to heart failure - though it's entirely
possible it was brought on by fear of what had happened to his colleague. He
was murdered, in my opinion."
was saying impishly, "'fess up... you weren't scared?"
not," he smiled back. "I have faith in you, Buffy."
Buffy broke off
as the phone rang and Giles reached to pick it up. She restlessly paced around
the room as Giles talked to his caller, and she tried not to eavesdrop on his
you, Alexander," Giles was saying and Buffy's ears pricked up. Was he
talking to Xander? "You've been most helpful."
thoughtful as he replaced the receiver. "That was Alexander Powell,"
he informed her, and Buffy's heart sank.
she responded with what she hoped was an interested smile. "He's lost his
like that. He's been in Cardiff for a few days with his fiancée. Apparently, he
met somebody he knew when he'd taken her out for the evening, and was... worried
about the demeanour of the person concerned."
is relevant to us... because?" Buffy queried, wondering why Giles was
telling her all this.
person," Giles replied quietly, "Was Angel."
There are differing accounts of
what the lady on the river is doing there. I have chosen the ancient village
scenario because I found it the most interesting. Here is another account of
And I also include a web cam of
the general area where this is set to show you what it looks like: