Fee. Fie. Foe. Fum.
Summary: The blood of an Englishman has been spilled.
Our three heroes investigate.
Thank you, Jo.
This tale is all the better for the challenges you set me and your beta skills.
Fee. Fie. Foe. Fum
"I like this
place," Buffy stated with a smile, her eyes crinkled with delight, at the
wonderful park-like grounds and quaint accommodations.
"I wish I
could say the same," a muffled voice behind her grumbled.
her head to look over the back of her seat to the prone, blanketed, unseen and
surly figure that was Angel.
said, and the smile widened, making a liar out of her.
the deep voice grouched.
"The sun is almost set, Angel." Giles coughed
politely, reminding the vampire that he was still with them. "I'll go inside
and sign in; you two come when it is safe." So saying, Giles left the two
lovers alone in the Discovery, his overnight bag swinging in his left hand.
Giles' eyes were drawn to the police car that was parked nearby. He picked up
his pace and disappeared indoors.
forgot that there were two humans in the car - how could he? Their heartbeats
thundered in his ears at every moment.
"At least you
got some sleep. You did get some sleep, didn't you?" Buffy asked, trying to
soothe the savage beast.
"I did. And
remind me again, never to travel in daylight, in the back of Giles' car."
over and patted the lump that was masquerading as a blanket.
"We could have
left you at home..."
full-blown smirk faded when she reviewed her suggestion.
have left you at home?" she asked, praying that he would answer no.
was worried now.
A tap on her
window startled her and her eyes lifted to see an elderly gentleman peering in
at her. Buffy manoeuvred her body back onto her seat and she wriggled about
until she could reach the handle for the window.
alright, Miss?" The man had watery grey eyes set in a kindly face.
you." Buffy smiled her sweetest smile and hoped the man would leave.
in his face deepened as the man tried to see past her shoulder. His face pulled
back and appeared at the passenger window. He stared at the blanket for a while
"Who were you
talking to?" he asked, his frown replaced by confusion.
sank. Well-meaning people were well-meaning, and that was the problem.
her teeth in despair. This was a fine time for Angel to decide to be verbal.
Why couldn't he keep his customary silence? Her mind raced trying to think up
some plausible excuse.
gentleman's face moved back to the passenger window. Buffy scooted over her
seat again and wound Angel's window down a crack.
to her lover, "A fine time to be talking!"
again and said, "My friend is..."
Angel pulled the blanket down, carefully adjusting the tarp beneath, and when
his fingers did not combust, he uncovered his face. The sun was disappearing
from the sky and there was enough shadow beneath the door for Angel to safely
lie. The vampire always knew when the sun had set or was about to rise, and in
this case the sun had only minutes left to offer a fiery death.
gets carsick and he had a lie down. I think he went to sleep," Buffy babbled at
the old man.
The man pursed
his lips. "One really shouldn't lie down in a moving car when one is ill. It's
all in the motion you see..."
"I told him
that, but you know men, they never listen. Um..." she realised that maybe she
shouldn't have said men, in quite
that way but the old man was peering intently at Angel.
"He does look
rather pale. I think a glass of brandy is in order."
there and listened to the conversation. This was familiar, being talked about.
His friends often chatted about him, forgetting that from a room away, or a
floor above, he could hear them. Angel amended that thought. His friends were
dead and could no longer gossip about him, and for that he was profoundly sad.
"Thank you. We
will get him a glass when he feels well enough to sit up and come inside."
relieved when the old man left, "A good evening to you," hung in the air behind
She turned her
attention back to her vampire lover. "Carsick?" she asked her eyes wide with
want him thinking that you were talking to yourself, did you?"
"I could have
bluffed my way out of it, and besides, aren't you supposed to be all mysterious
and non-communicative guy? What happened to the non-speaking part of your
looked at her and she gave in. She was much too talkative to play that game.
her head to look out the window, the rosy glow of the fading day caught her
profile and Angel thought she had never been more beautiful. So precious a
moment, his heart ached because of it, and he tucked away the memory to
"Only a moment
more," she said unnecessarily, and he loved her for it.
stayed on her beauty, drank in the changes of colour that transformed her skin,
shades of pink and gold danced until the blaze dimmed and Buffy was a Goddess
of the Sun no more, she became his Buffy, his light in his dark.
shifted and her eyes caught his. Their gazes locked and time flew away, the
world stopped, and all there was, was each other.
Buffy was the
first to move, she breathed in and swallowed, the spell broken but never
"Come on lazy
bones. Time's a wasting!"
Angel sat up
relieved to be able, and besides, now he could see his whereabouts. The grounds
were well manicured. It was a pretty place. The police car caught his attention
but he knew that Giles was dealing with it. He opened his door and slid out
dragging the blanket and tarp with him. While Buffy fussed with the bags, he
folded both and placed them neatly on the back seat. He straightened his dark
clothing, and reached for his coat and bag that Buffy held out to him. He raked
his fingers through his hair, and stopped when Buffy chuckled at his attempts
to rein in his unruly locks.
vain," she teased as they made their way to the door of the Castle View Bed and
Breakfast. A middle-aged couple were seated on wooden chairs on the small
patio, sharing a bottle of wine before dinner. Buffy smiled at them, Angel who
was deep in a frown, only offered a slight nod as they reached the front door.
"*I* do not
spend hours in front of a mirror," he retorted, to which Buffy sniffed and
turned her nose in the air.
toothily and Buffy couldn't hold in the giggle that was lodged in her throat.
Angel opened the door and stood back to let Buffy enter. She loved that about
him, his 18th century manners. He could be such a gentleman when he
wanted to be, which was usually most of the time. She swept by him, the giggles
now free of her throat floated in behind her.
There was a
lady behind the small counter that stood to one side of the entrance. A
two-tiered stand of postcards cluttered the counter, as did maps and brochures
of the nearby towns and countryside. Buffy wondered again, how small English
houses were and how on earth did the British manage. She noticed that Angel's
head was somewhere near the ceiling.
charge, stepped up to the woman, and inquired about their room. The woman, Mrs
Cooper, owner and manager, smiled dreamily at the handsome, dark-headed young
man and asked if they were Buffy and Angel. Her eyes flicked past him to Buffy,
barely assessed her before zeroing back to the handsome young man.
"Mr Giles has
signed for you. You have a double room and en suite." Mrs Cooper handed Angel
the keys and if her hand lingered a second too long, Angel chose to ignore it.
"Mr Giles has
indicated that you will want dinner. It is at seven."
She had noticed the hand thing. Not to be left out, she grabbed her lover's
other arm and leaned into his side.
She offered a
sickly sweet smile to Mrs Cooper, and stormy eyes that spoke of possible
maiming and murder. Buffy murmured, "Come on, baby," and pulled him away before
the woman could walk around the counter and show them to the room.
eyebrows rose and his lips quirked in that teasing line that Buffy loved but
"I saw what
she was doing. Touching up *my* honey!" Buffy all but growled.
snickered and received a bruising grip about his arm. Barely keeping his face
under control he allowed Buffy to manhandle him away from her competition.
Buffy had dragged them in the right direction and after glancing up the narrow
stairs, she continued to hustle them up. The number on the key, 3, was on the
second door along the narrow hall. Inside was a bed, too small for the
vampire's frame, a couple of chairs, a table and dresser and a bathroom door that
the bed with his evil eye. "Is this supposed to be a Welsh bed?"
happily on the lovely cream bedspread. "Cosy: perfect for snuggling."
animosity towards the bed underwent a drastic change. He dumped his bag and
pounced on his love. She laughed, kissed him, and shoved him away when a knock
sounded at the door.
Angel?" It was Giles.
Buffy pulled a
face and let Giles in.
looking at the bed and the vampire that sat there. Buffy and sex, he was not
going there. Angel and Buffy and sex, definitely not going there! Shades of Xander Harris popped into his
head and he cringed.
surveyed the rest of the room and said, "This is quite acceptable, don't you
you, Giles. What's up?"
back to Buffy, who was now sitting on the bed beside Angel.
speaking to Constable Blakemore. The victim has not regained consciousness..."
Angel's voice was low and soft.
him in the eye. "There's a chance, small though it may be. However, we cannot
rely on it, and according to the Constable, there is no evidence of the
attacker, weapon or otherwise."
"So you said,
before, on the trip here." Buffy wanted to hurry Giles along. The watcher had a
gift for drawing out the boring bits.
his slayer and offered new information. "Blakemore says that it now appears as
if the weapon is pointed, shaped like an ice pick. The man, a Paul Lewis,
received a couple of vicious blows to his head. His hands carry defensive
police are letting you investigate because?" Angel asked, already knowing the
around here know of a legend..."
"Yeah! Got it!
Giants, gold, key, yada, yada, yada."
at the slayer, which prompted her to lean into her vampire and rest her head
upon his shoulder, her eyes alive with laughter. Giles sat heavily into one of
the two chairs under the small window undeterred. He suspected the slight
twitch of the vampire's lips but ignored it in favour of continuing.
"As I was
saying, again, there is a legend of two brothers - giants - who lived in ages
past. One at View Edge and the other lived at Norton Camp. Apparently, although
this is unsubstantiated, the brothers are supposed to have owned most of the
countryside and kept their wealth in a chest in a secret stronghold at Stokesay
"You think the
man in the hospital was after the gold?" Buffy straightened and Angel wished
her warmth back.
Castle has nothing of value, at least, in the sense of anything small enough to
steal. The Castle itself and its lands are a treasure..."
interrupted, "And there is that footprint."
his throat. "Certainly, and that is why we have been called."
"Okay, but we
eat first, before we go haring off into the night."
"Dinner is a
little way off; perhaps we could venture outside for a while."
and donned his coat. He had offered little to the conversation but was no less
intrigued. It was obvious that he and Buffy would be denied a little privacy
before dinner, and the suggestion of a walk was welcome. It was plain to him,
at least, that Giles was uncomfortable in their bedroom.
The sky was
clear and the twilight deep when the three emerged out into the garden. There
were a few well-placed seats about, and these were ignored as Buffy drew the
two men towards the water feature she had spied on the manicured lawn. It was a
small man-made pool, set in some sort of slate. A gazebo stood nearby, offering
shelter and a place to sit and contemplate. Hungry diners that preferred al
fresco could avail themselves of the wooden table and chairs that waited beside
suppose there are any fish in there," she said as she peered through the gloom
and into the dark water.
into the pond and said, "No." The pond was decoration only and if there had been
fish, the herons no doubt had had a feast when first introduced.
suddenly. Well-placed globes illuminated the small trees and shrubs, the
gazebo, a turret of darkness, showed welcome in its cheery single lamp, the
pool had a borrowed gleam and the main house carried its own sentries of the
electric beam. Angel blinked at the
brightness; the other two welcomed the warm glow.
that the journey was uncomfortable, Angel," Giles said suddenly, unsure what
prompted him. Perhaps it was Angel's quietness, his more than usual reticence.
He wondered if this place brought forth painful memories for the vampire.
acknowledged the apology with a nod and held his peace. He knew why he was
here. Buffy did too, she was glad to have Angel here with her, and knew that he
understood that although it was necessary he accompany them, she wanted him not
just for his preternatural abilities. Buffy snared his hand, gave it a little
squeeze and did not let go.
back and allowed Buffy to walk him around the English garden. Giles allowed the
pair their privacy. He meandered about the garden, small though it was, the
hedgerows and retaining wall open to the countryside at the far end of the
property. Beyond the pond, a path began its journey there. Giles supposed the
path joined others that wound through the diverse countryside. Countryside that
included moor-like Caer Caradoc, the mystical Stiperstones, Ragleth Hill, and
the ancient Wenlock Edge to name a few. He stepped away when he felt the lovers
venture near, reflecting on the violent history of the old Marcher lords. Well
that the lords were protected within their castles, their plundering and
pillaging wouldn't have endeared them to the peasantry when they indulged
themselves in petty wars.
coming in for dinner," Buffy stated when she noticed the direction of Angel's
point." His eyes travelled the path. "You can meet me at Stokesay when you're
down and kissed the lips she offered before pulling away. She watched him go,
watched his dark shape disappear into the deepening night. Giles came to stand
Why do you ask?" She peered up at her Watcher.
kidding? He was positively chatty in the car." Buffy nudged Giles in the
direction of the house.
"I find that
hard to believe." Giles let Buffy push him towards dinner.
Angel trod the
path that wound its way through the countryside. Stokesay Castle was not far, a
mile or two, half that if you did not follow the path. Angel chose to follow.
He did so, hoping to stumble across a clue that could point to anything that
had occurred at the castle, or fortified manor, as he preferred to think it. He
concentrated on watching the ground and tried not to think of the times he had
hunted the farmlands here. He had killed the poor folk with abandon, never
caring about the destruction and misery he left behind him. He had not even
cared when he had had to make good his escape across the open heather-clad moors,
avoiding the angry peasants and their sharp implements, to find safety in the
forested valleys further south. It had all been a game to him, back then. Life
had rarely mattered; it was the dying that had fascinated him.
softy and shook his thoughts free. Concentrate!
He carried no
light, his eyes more suited to the night, picked out details that a human in
daylight would have missed. Several people passed by on their way to the small
village of Craven Arms. Torch-lights bobbed, unaware of the danger that lurked
invisible, laughter and conversation floated on the evening air, blanketing
Angel in human normalcy. Not a few were curious about the incident at Stokesay.
In no time at
all, he stood near the grounds of the old church that nestled next to Stokesay
Castle but did not linger among the gravestones. He would follow the path
around to Much Wenlock which meant following the river Onny a step or two.
Angel knew he had time. Giles and Buffy would be a while at dinner and he
wanted to scout the terrain.
the way he came, his quest for clues a failure. Undeterred and satisfied all
the same, he enjoyed the walk back and kept his stride human.
himself back at St John the Baptist Church's graveyard. He knelt beside a
splash of blood, the police marker unnecessary, among the headstones. The blood
was human. The vampire cursed the hunger that growled low in his throat, his
fangs ached in anticipation of a delicious feast. He did not move for a moment
or two. On his knees on hallowed ground, he battled the demon within for
control and won.
unusual tickled his senses, drew him up on his feet and took him to the edge of
the cemetery. He looked down at an unusual gravestone...and the rumble of an
engine impinged. Angel shook his head and gathered his wits. It was Buffy and
from the Land Rover and ran towards Angel who waited for them at the perimeter
of the car park.
"Did you miss
me?" she asked breathlessly as she hurtled into his arms.
her in a fierce hug, kissed her cheek and said, "Always."
twinkled and after a quick peck at his lips she murmured, "Better put me down.
Giles is all...Watcher-like."
He did as she
asked as Giles came towards them, a light in his hand. Buffy could see quite
well in the dark, but accepted a torch because although she was a slayer, she
was not a vampire.
found anything?" Giles asked in way of a greeting.
Human...and something else." Angel led them to the scene of the crime.
Giles shone his light over the grass. The grass looked trampled sure, and
unable to see the blood, he did not doubt his colleague. One would never
challenge a vampire his sense of smell.
"More than one
human?" he asked.
Buffy felt her
skin prickle. There was something odd, an indefinable feeling of unease
slithered into her awareness.
Giles shone his light about trying to discover what his companions felt. The
shadows stood silent and unthreatening.
murmured, "It could be...I'm not sure." She watched when Angel stepped away, his
head came up and he sniffed the air. Buffy followed him and Giles did too. He
crossed the grass until he stood beneath the walls of the estate.
to the earth. "The ground here has been disturbed."
Giles shone their light and saw yes, the sod had been removed and put back
carefully. In the long grass, it wouldn't have been noticed.
to see better. Angel moved to point out another abused clump of earth, and
another. The digger had become reckless, frantic, and the earth was clearly
disturbed. The numerous holes stared dark and open at them. A discarded spade
lay a few feet away, forgotten. Buffy shadowed him, casting illumination over
the patchwork of grass.
been digging..." Buffy looked at the shape that was Angel. "You sensed this,
dig...something was here, watching. Something big." His eyes gleamed for a moment
when Giles rose from his crouch; the light from the Watcher's torch caught his
face for an instant before moving away.
"Do you sense
anything, Buffy?" Giles asked as he surveyed the rest of the damage. It was
difficult, considering the circumstances, for gathering clues. He knew,
however, that night-time work was a prerequisite if one needed to make use of a
vampire's preternatural abilities.
nodded, uneasy. "Yes. Not in the way of demon - kill...more like, creepy...stay
Angel was not sure if the creature or whatever had offered harm. It had *done*
harm, not its first intent, but harm all the same.
their answers, Giles decided to move on. "The footprint."
The vampire moved back past the gravestones and onto the path. Buffy hurried
and caught up with him, leaving Giles a pace or two behind.
okay?" she asked in a murmur, low enough for Giles not to hear but knowing that
He looked down at her. "What?"
that something is up with you."
He turned at a
sign that said Wild Edric's Way and The Shropshire Way.
you're quiet." Buffy snorted. Angel smiled and she batted his arm, happy to
know that there wasn't anything bothering him, more than usual.
A large body
of water glistened faintly before them, the moon showing its face from behind clouds,
a quarter full. Angel paced back towards the castle until his feet rested
before a muddy imprint of flattened grass.
squatted, this time Buffy joined him, both examining the larger-than-possible
"I say," Giles
said in that breathless way that betrayed his excitement. He was excited. Here was proof positive of
a creature of gigantic proportions. No human had a tread this enormous. While he measured with his hand, Buffy swept
the area with her torch. She stood and Angel spoke.
"There is only
one. I looked."
"How is that
possible? Even with one foot, and hopping, there would be more."
the slayer. Anything is possible."
She grinned at
him. "A one-footed giant? I don't think I want to kill something that has a
disability. It doesn't seem...fair."
risen and had wandered off to the pond and was striping the shore with light.
He was looking for something. They joined him and waited for his attention.
Giles?" Buffy asked impatient now. "If you are about to say, let's break into
the castle, can we just get on with it?"
Well. I suppose that would be the next step." Giles looked up at the shadow
that was Buffy and the light in his hand swept towards the distant manor in
the slight hesitation in the Englishman's voice. "What is it?"
off the vampire's concern. "Nothing of import I'm sure. Yes, let's do get on
with the illegal portion of our evening."
Angel held his
tongue. Giles was not forthcoming and he wondered what was bothering him.
Angel led the
humans back the way they came and to the beautiful timber-framed Jacobean
gatehouse. It was the public and usual entrance into the Manor and its inner
grounds. Angel plucked up the wooden
bench that sat outside the gatehouse and positioned it against the low wall for
Giles to use to scale the wall.
gracefully leapt up on to the stone and stretched out his hand. Giles did not
decline the offer, and although he was getting on in years, he was a fit man
and proud of it. It made sense to allow the vampire to help him scramble up and
over the wall. He did not see the same hand being offered to Buffy as his feet
hit solid ground. She shook her head and leaped the distance with no trouble at
all. Angel smiled at her as they both stepped off the top and landed beside the
moat?" Buffy asked and she thought she should have noticed the lack outside the
walls, not in.
know, castles have moats. In movies, castles always have a moat. What happened
to the moat, or did the owners run out of money?"
"The moat has
been filled in, Buffy. In its day, the man-made moat was fed by the large pond
at the south-west of the property, the very same pond we just visited." Giles'
tone bordered on admonishment, his mind clearly elsewhere and not on the large
space that was the courtyard.
moat was drained for a reason," Angel suggested, showing that yes, he had been
listening - noted the chiding given by Giles - and softened that by his
appreciation of Buffy's oblique reference. His teeth showed white when she
angled her light his way. He nodded at her blooming smile.
Giles said, somewhat mollified.
what the digging was about. He, or they, were looking for the key." Buffy
whirled to look at the Englishman and Angel could see the look of triumph on
her face. She was sure she had picked up on the clue when the Watcher had not.
already considered and discarded the notion.
"The moat has
been dry for a very long time. I imagine that the area has been thoroughly
searched." At the slump of Buffy's shoulders Giles added and conceded, "The
legend does state that the brothers lost the key in the moat when throwing it
back and forth. Many people have looked to no avail over the centuries. Then
again, there are signs of a renewed search. Maybe Lewis is better informed than
"Is that even
possible?" she asked, incredulous.
Now it was
Giles who chuckled and Angel felt the tension in his shoulders ease.
paranormal investigators stood silent before the Great Hall of Stokesay It was
magnificent and flanked by the North and South towers.
"This is not
really a castle."
"It sure looks
castle-like," Buffy observed.
"The manor was once a sheep farm and the
owner, a Lawrence de Ludlow, became very wealthy exporting wool."
"So why isn't
it called the Ludlow Castle?"
interjected. "The de Say family built the original manor house. Stoke is the
word for dairy, and of course Say, or de Say, is the Norman family name."
impressed. "However, the de Say family sold the estate when their fortunes
declined in 1250 or thereabouts. Lawrence de Ludlow was granted a license to
crenellate, or in layman's terms, to strengthen his defences. He practically
tore down the original manor house but kept the North tower, added to it, and
built the three-storied South tower in 1291. What you see here is the 13th
century finished product."
moved past the flower beds, crossed the grassed courtyard and climbed the
stairs to the entrance of the main hall. The stairs carried on past to another
door set into the South Tower but they ignored that for the first door. Angel
quietly forced the lock and they were inside the Great Hall. Giles continued
his lecture as they moved across old wooden floors that insisted on creaking
with every step.
which was not named so until the 16th century has changed hands
several times. The Ludlows had the Manor in their possession for nearly 300
years. The Cravens - who were Royalists -" Giles held up a hand when Buffy
opened her mouth, "bear with me, moved into the manor in 1620 and the family
held the estate until the 19th century. It was then that the Castle
was sold to the Allcroft family..."
interrupted the Watcher, again. "The castle was in disrepair and was being used
as a cooper's, granary and a blacksmith's."
at her. "Barrel makers."
at Giles and then at Angel in wonder. Boy! The two men in her life were her own
personal guides to the weird and not so wonderful past. They really needed to
get a life.
Giles gazed at
Angel, fascinated. Here was someone who had *lived* through some of the history
of this place. "Had you been to the castle...in your...past life?" he asked
sidestepped the question. "I've been in the area before."
Giles let it
lie, vowing to find out at a later date. His was a Watcher's curiosity, and it
would be satisfied. He turned his attention to the room they stood in. It was
enormous. Large tall windows adorned the walls, letting in light during the
day. The Ludlows had to have been extremely wealthy to have afforded such
extravagance, he thought. Giles looked to the cruck-roofed ceiling, some thirty-odd
feet above. He played his light across the medieval beams, and marvelled at the
skill of the craftsmen that linked the beams in such intricacy. Buffy's light
showed the hall to be at least 50 feet in length and picked out the remains of
an open hearth centred in the floor.
over to examine the vestiges of a stairway that would have once led to the
North Tower. He placed a booted foot and tested its strength. It swayed and
Angel took his foot back. He was unimpressed
with the Hall. He could appreciate the beauty, the craftsmanship, yes. Having
lived through the era that lacked hot showers and indoor plumbing, he was not
nostalgic. People were oppressed back then, more so than now, in the civilised
countries at least. It wasn't a time he wanted back, ever.
wandered away, and found herself in a room that boasted an enormous fireplace
with an intricately carved mantle, the panelled walls warm and beautiful. The
room was in keeping with the rest of the Hall, large. The only furniture was a
long bench-like table with bench seats on either side, and a wooden high seat
for two sat near the fireplace. To peer out into the night, Buffy had to step
carefully into the recess that allowed her to sit on the window seat. She
squinted through the magnificent windows and could see little. The leading in
the windows and the old glass obscured her vision.
back to the main hall and declared, "Nothing doing in there. In fact this looks
like a bust."
"We need to
get into the basement."
in Angel's direction. He was hard to see in the gloom. "Oh joy! Basements,
they're always fun!"
"I have to
agree. There is no sign of a struggle or damage of any kind here. The legend
is kept in the basement. I get it, Giles. So let's get it over with."
Angel left the
stairs for the lower arch of an open door that led into the tower.
Two humans and
a vampire found themselves beneath the North Tower, climbing down the narrow
stairs towards the dank, dark and smelly basement.
smell?" Buffy asked, holding her nose.
are evident in the South Tower. Perhaps the North Tower had its share?" Giles
murmured behind her.
of smell here," said a deep voice ahead, not at all sympathetic.
"Yeah, but you
lived in the time of out houses, bathing in steel tubs and no electricity."
"I see that
you didn't waste all your time in school, Buffy," Giles commented behind her
with a chuckle.
drain," Angel stated as his foot found the ground. He chose to ignore his two
companions: they were accurate in their assessment of his previous life.
was larger than anticipated and yet it closed in on one. Angel's keen eyes were
drawn to the faint designs that decorated the walls. The fingers of one hand
were tracing the lines of the medieval painting when Buffy and Giles arrived.
Their light illuminated the object of his attention. He blinked at the
brightness and closed his eyes.
One wonders why anyone would decorate a storeroom so."
"At least the
drain is empty," Buffy waggled her hand towards the open drain, "but why the
any number of reasons, Buffy. A closed space traps such odours, the air grows
to the treasure."
went unseen as he directed his light into the drain and peered in without
allowing his knees contact with the ground. The drain was, indeed, empty.
has been sought for many a century. I very much doubt if we would in all
probability find it, if it ever existed."
"And yet there
is the footprint."
"What I want
to know," Buffy said as she walked back to where Angel was still enthralled with
flakes of old paint, "why a basement? I mean," she ticked off each finger as
she made a point, "it's small, too small for anyone large to venture - not you,
Angel - they couldn't get a foot in here, let alone a hand, and this is a
storeroom. People store things in here; not exactly rocket scientists were
they, these ‘giants?'"
beside Buffy and both watched as Angel's fingers trailed the design. "Perhaps
the Tower had access through the floor, or outer walls before the additions. I
don't know, Buffy. The legend is just that, legend."
fell away as Buffy and Giles observed the other hand of the vampire slide up
and over the wall, his fingers reading the paint as if it were Braille, his
eyes were closed. Buffy's slayer sense tingled, the fine hair at the back of
her neck prickled and she planted her feet, her fists curled.
His arms were
spread wide, fingers pressed in at odd places. His body was flush with the
asked as an odd feeling ran through him.
did not answer. A scrape of stone set teeth on edge, and the rumble and creak
of an ancient device not heard from in an era, abraded the senses. The wall,
inch by inch, groaned and moved into a recess set behind more stone. The
vampire stood as the last stone rested, quiet. He lowered his arms.
you...?" Giles started to ask.
"Watch out!" and pushed Giles aside and attempted to move Angel in the same
way. He staggered a couple of steps, and her torch rolled away behind her in
heard Angel shout but she ignored him for the dark, fearsome shape that hurtled
out of the bowels of Hell.
away and landed a fast kick as she spun. The musty smell intruded, more potent
than before. She shook her head and evaded the vicious jab of a huge beak.
felt strong arms grab her and pull her back, and in her peripheral vision Giles
was upright against the far wall.
Angel and relaxed, and allowed him to pull her out of harm's way.
she asked as she stared into a large black orb that reflected madness and
ferocity, and her and Giles' reflection.
Guardian. Buffy, the legend is true," Giles whispered in awe behind them.
blinked and retreated and became an eye. Feathers, ebony, shone glossy in the
twin beams of light that Giles now held. Buffy felt her lover's embrace relax
before he released her. She tried to peer around the giant bird.
"So why is it
not trying to kill us? This is the thing that attacked that man the other
night, I mean look at that beak! So how are we so lucky?"
Giles came up
beside them. "I cannot see a box, or chest, or treasure." He looked over to the
folded its wings and retreated into the stygian hole that was its domain. Giles
picked out bare earth with his light. Buffy squinted and thought she caught a
glimpse of something indistinct. It was as if the emptiness was not
what was before him. The legends were true. This was the famous lost treasure
of the giants of Stokesay and its guardian. His hand reached into his pocket
and when it came out, the hand was smoking.
asked, puzzled and concerned, before she handed him her handkerchief.
He wrapped the
iron cross in the cotton and approached the bird. It blinked slowly and allowed
his entry. The minute he stepped inside, the not-quite-emptiness shimmered and
a large chest manifested.
earth?" The Englishman's breath quickened in anticipation. They were about to
discover what secrets the chest held.
never left the raven as he carefully laid the Key atop the chest. He
straightened and took back his step.
"I found it in
the graveyard earlier."
in a breath. "That is why no-one has been able to find the key. They were
looking for a key, not a cross that *is* a key."
burrowed into the vampire's broad back. "How did you know?"
shrugged. "There was something about the cross...it was...there."
explain it or put it into words.
head edged towards the chest, its beak opened and plucked up the Key. The
strongbox vanished, as did the bird, and the harsh grind of rock alerted the
three that the wall was about to close off the hidden depths of the castle.
Buffy grabbed hold of Angel's arm as he quickly retreated and they watched as
the art rose and assumed its guise as a relic of bygone days.
at her lover and her quip sounded a little forced. "I guess that answers my question
about getting in and out of the place. Talking of, can we go now? I'll never get the smell out of my hair."
narrowed but he held his tongue until they were above ground and walking
towards the car.
"That was a
neat trick you pulled, how did you know the wall...?"
"I didn't at
first. The design on the wall was intriguing..." Angel stopped and turned his
continued to the car and did not notice that Buffy and Angel had halted.
"It's a pity
that we did not get to see what was inside the chest. Imagine the wonders, the
wealth, the..." He turned around to see Angel giving Buffy a kiss before he
melted, it seemed, into the night.
"He says to
meet him at the rooms."
They were at
the car. Giles started the vehicle when Buffy slammed her door shut.
"I thought you
said he was chatty?"
before adding, "It's a shame the treasure disappeared like that. Imagine what
one could do with..."
would never take anything that belonged to the history of Great Britain." The
slayer was shocked at the very idea. A niggling doubt crept in. "Would you?"
"No..." The no
wasn't exactly firm in both their ears. "There would or could have been a
reward," he added hastily. "Besides, there is the 1996 Treasure Act. We would
have to notify the authorities, and I doubt we would be granted a reward. That
would belong to the owners of Stokesay or the British Museum would benefit."
"Are we so
This time the
answer was firm. "No. We are holding our own, Buffy; a little extra would have
back to Craven Arms in silence, each reflecting on the worth of their work.
back to the pond sure of the sound he had heard. The water lay quiescent; the
soft breeze caressed his hair and soothed the landscape in gentle sighs. The
earth trembled and Angel halted beside the print of a very large being. The
ground shook again and something thudded nearby. His keen sight picked out the
glimmer of gold, and then there were three. He craned his head to see the night
sky. A large shadow moved and the cry of a raven pierced the evening quiet. A
low rumble growled, thunder of a sort, in his ears.
He leaned down
and plucked up the ancient gold.
TRAIAN HADRIANVS AVG was stamped there, along with the bust of the long dead
Caesar. The back carried PM TRP COS111 and LIB PVB and a Goddess sat there.
considered the coins for several heartbeats - not his - before he pocketed the
again to the sky and felt only the weight of the stars. The earth was quiet, at
peace, the air freshened as the breeze picked up, and he turned back to the
path and started for his temporary home.
Buffy and Giles sipping tea and hot chocolate when he ventured inside. It was
late, extremely so, and the lonely Mrs Cooper had retired for the night. They
had the small parlour to themselves.
the pot. "Tea?"
you." Angel sat on the couch and
welcomed Buffy's warmth when she wriggled close. He could feel Giles' curiosity and Buffy's impatience.
impatient, she couldn't wait for Angel to drink his tea. Her hazel eyes were
fixed on his face and she was relieved to see the small smile he bestowed her.
Angel could almost be called happy, almost. He was relaxed, and Buffy knew that
whatever business he had attended to, it had ended well.
back there? What did you see?"
the cup of Irish Breakfast tea with a raised brow at Giles, and took an
agonizingly slow sip. At least to Buffy, it was deliberate and slow. She
resisted the urge to punch him, it would only spill the tea and besides, it was
childish. He swallowed again, ignored Buffy's narrowed eyes, savoured the warmth
of the tea before he relented and rested the cup on the table.
"What are you
going to tell Blakemore?" Angel asked,
much to Buffy's dismay. She resisted the urge to pout and waited like the
mature woman she was supposed to be. She found it...taxing.
He's a local man; he has grown up with the legends of the Marches." Giles
paused. "I'll tell him that there won't be another incident."
that Angel was alluding to the secret cavern and the treasure. "Maybe not," he conceded.
and it appeared as if the vampire had made up his mind, and that Giles had
somehow contributed to that decision.
with Buffy as Angel delved into his coat pocket and withdrew a fisted hand.
He opened his
fingers and there on his pale palm sat three gold coins.
Giles' heart raced. He reached out to touch one of the coins.
one up before his fingers could and Giles quickly grabbed one other.
huffed as she eyed the coin. "What's with the Roman numerals?" She tossed the
coin in the air. It was heavy.
Buffy." Giles' hand shook. The coins were ancient. "It is Roman, well spotted."
Caesar Trajan Hadrian Augustus." Angel translated for her. Giles was conversant
Maximus - Chief Priest - with power as Tribune and Consul for the 3rd
time. Public freedom." Giles had turned his coin over. He lifted his glasses
and replaced them after squinting at the stamped figure.
Libertas, the Goddess of Freedom." Angel confirmed.
valuable?" Buffy rubbed the coin between two fingers.
Good Lord! It certainly is. The coins are nearly 2000 years old." Giles stared
at the vampire. "Where did you find these?"
"In the grass
by the footprint." He did not say that there was now more than one.
"I never saw
any sign of gold," Giles accused, because he had looked.
"What do you
call these?" Buffy asked unaware of the sudden tension.
is the plural. The Romans introduced a currency in Britain that was based on
three metals. Gold, which you see here, silver are denarii and of course
copper, which were the less valuable. The aurei are 95% gold and were not used
among the common folk."
"That's why it
is heavy? It's almost solid gold? Wow!" Buffy stopped rolling the coin and put
it gently on the table.
suppose we can keep them, can we? Giles said something about the Treasure Act
and that we have to hand it in." She eyed the coin with regret. New clothes
could come in handy and she needed new shoes.
his lips and placed his coin next to hers. He was tempted but he knew that
Buffy was right.
Angel now had
a clue about the hesitation he had felt in Giles at the castle. Giles had been
thinking about the treasure and its worth. Once upon a time it had been called
gold fever, and Angel knew that while Giles could not be called a gold digger,
he had been affected. Giles' body language screamed his desire to the
softly, and offered, "It was a gift, not a find. I think we can keep these."
up and Buffy's face lit up. "Really? Can we?" she asked with hope and barely
contained the happy jiggle she wanted to make on her seat.
Giles insisted. A gift, his Watcher's mind noted. Who's gift, and did Angel see
Buffy asked, her hopes for new shoes and wardrobe plummeting.
"If we did, we
would have to sell them for cash and anyone trading in ancient coins would
notify the authorities."
"I know of a
certain someone who could sell these for us, discreetly." Angel placed his coin
beside the others.
torn. Was it possible? Was it ethical? He *was* tempted.
Buffy was not
torn. She wanted the coins turned into pounds.
somewhat desperately. "Just think of the use we can make of the extra money,
Giles. It must cost a fortune running the house and Martha and John's wages
can't be cheap."
the matter for him. "We do good work and we do not always get paid. As I said,
these were a gift, not a find. I propose that you, Giles, keep the lion's
share. You handle the accounts for the business. The two coins are yours, Buffy
and I will take one. I am sure that
Buffy has something she needs to buy."
at him and he knew he had made the right call. Money did not interest him. He
had few needs, clothing, and a roof over his head, his car, and a run to the
butcher's now and again. Once, he'd had urgent need of funds, he had a baby to
love and cherish and his finances had become important. He had been an idiot.
Now, he had Buffy, and although it was enough for him, he wanted to be able to
provide for her, buy her gifts, and take her places. Giles supplied most of
their wants, paid them a small stipend but now he had an opportunity to call
this money his own, it was enough to put by for a rainy day.
that every man has his pride, especially where one's finances are concerned. He
didn't blame Angel wanting his own, it must have rankled, having to rely on
handouts. Not that the vampire hadn't earned his share of the agency's profits,
he had, admirably. Angel had been used to running his own affairs; he was over
two centuries old. Giles often wondered what the vampire did for money when
Angel was living in Sunnydale. He took note of the hold Buffy had on Angel's
hand and the anxious look on her face. It reminded him that they had committed
graver acts than this.
He released a
large breath. "You've convinced me."
with delight, and with dismay covered her mouth. "Sorry," she apologised for
the noise. Her eyes were shining and Giles did not regret his capitulation.
someone?" he asked.
did not leave the aurei, and he watched as Angel nipped them up and placed them
into his hand. "I'll ask for them when I need them."
trembled. Here was history, relics of ancient Rome and Britain cupped in the
palm of his hand. He wanted to keep these precious items and almost changed his
Buffy asked again behind a yawn. She was excited and tired.
estimate? Fifteen hundred to two thousand pounds...each. Less on the black
dropped away. Her mouth dropped open. "Oh."
her mouth closed.
"A new pair of
shoes?" he murmured, and his eyes twinkled.
straight!" Buffy laughed. This trip had turned out to be the best ever. Demon
hunting and gold, what more could a slayer want. She gazed at her love. Maybe
one thing more.
1. As I have never been to Stokesay Castle, I
have relied on the Internet for information on the interior. Forgive me for any
errors, call it artistic license.
2. Stokesay Castle.
3. The Giants of Stokesay.
4. Roman Gold Coins.
5. Castle View Bed & Breakfast is an actual
place. I've changed the name of the owner, and have no idea of the interior but
if you want to see how picturesque the place is, go here.
6. The Shropshire landscape.
7. The Welsh Marches