Songs of Sadness
are dying at Bolsover Castle, and Buffy, Angel and Giles prepare to spend their
Songs of Sadness
were intricately rendered and, for the most part, intimately arrayed. Pursing her lips as she peered more closely
at the figures adorning the upper walls and ceiling of the small room, Tabitha
whispered her fingers over the wooden panelling before her. She was certainly no expert on Roman
mythology, but she was certain that she recognized several of them. The regal man seated in the centre had to be
Jupiter, for instance, and the golden beauty lying in an...interesting...position
next to her companion could only be Venus.
On the whole, the artwork was a decadent depiction of carnal pleasure.
sideling glance at the slim figure of her companion, Tabitha sighed and
attempted to direct her attention away from thoughts of pleasure, both carnal
and otherwise. Shifting awkwardly, she
edged her way around the perimeter of the room, desperately seeking a way to
ease the palpable tension that permeated the air between them. A month ago, it had seemed like a brilliant
idea to sign up for this assignment with Nathan. Of course, they had still been happily dating then, and she had
convinced herself that homework with her boyfriend wasn't truly homework at all
- and that therefore, it would be fun.
Now, sequestered within the erotically and vividly painted room in
Bolsover Castle as they scrambled to finish their Art History presentation, all
she wanted was to get as far away from him as possible. Or, conversely, to push him up against the
wall and play the role of Venus.
the owner wasn't big on sexual repression, huh?" she asked in an attempt
to be flippant. It helped to pretend
that she just didn't care. "Why
did he bother with the other room if he was into this kind of thing?"
point," Nathan replied shortly, "was that he would have the option to
choose between passion and piety." He said nothing more as he returned his
attention to his notes.
twisted bitterly, an expression she allowed herself to indulge in since his
back was turned to her. She knew all
too well how Nathan felt about the concept of choice; he had left her, after
all, so that he would have the choice to sleep with whomever he liked.
just go to the other room and get this over with. I want to go home. I have
a lot of other homework to do." She brushed past him and out the
door. Even if this presentation taught
her nothing else, she had learned never to sign up for an assignment with a
boyfriend again. She would definitely
be receiving full marks in The Lessons of Life this semester.
room they entered, located within the castle's master bedchamber next to the
first, was much the same as far as size and construction were concerned. Whereas the room called Elysium had sported
cavorting Roman deities, however, the room named Heaven was its
counterpart. Amidst a multitude of
angels and various heavenly displays, Christ was in the process of ascending
into the sky on the ceiling directly above them.
immediately set to work taking notes on the artwork, just as he had done in the
previous room. He moved quickly, making
brief sketches and recording various details.
It appeared that he wanted to be away from her just as much as she
wanted to be away from him. The thought
hurt, and in an attempt to distract herself, Tabitha began a close inspection
of the walls similar to the one she had carried out in the other room.
As she made
her way around the corner closest to the door, a series of small, thin
scratches caught her eye and she abruptly stopped to get a better look at
them. They were shallowly made and set
into the grain of the wood in such a way as to be almost indiscernible. It took her a few seconds to realize that,
despite their near concealment, they were neither accidental nor arbitrary in
nature; she was pretty sure that it was an inscription of some kind, consisting
of two simple lines.
Tabitha leaned even closer, lifting one hand to gently brush against the
blemished wall. From their dull
appearance, she could tell that the words had not been recently inscribed, but
had rather adorned the wall for quite some time. Squinting, she just barely managed to make them out, murmuring
aloud as she forced her eyes to recognize and accept each faded letter.
she is dead; she's dead: when thou know'st this,
know'st how lame a cripple this world is."
struck a chord of sadness within her that resonated in synchronicity with the
raw pain of her recent break-up, the ache that came of being so close to him
when she no longer had the right to touch him.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nathan turn and lift his head, a
frown on his face at her latest interruption.
The pain dug deeper, at that, a reminder that at one time he would have
smiled and jokingly asked: when had she become a poet, and why so sad, wasn't
there anything - the word so suggestive - that he could do to cheer her
He opened his
mouth to speak, but he never had the chance to articulate his thoughts - unless
one counted the scream that suddenly resonated throughout the room. Tabitha could see the reflection of horror
in his eyes, and as a sudden chill passed through the air and the door slammed
closed behind them, she spun and pressed her back against the wall.
For a brief
instant, she could find nothing that could possibly have drawn such a sound
from Nathan's mouth, but then something - something faded and pale and
translucent and fast - rushed towards her, slamming into her body, and
it was a moment before she realized that suddenly it was gone. Except that it wasn't, for as she whirled
around to face Nathan again, she saw that it was there, between them,
and she screamed as she saw the blood, screamed until she was convinced that
surely her voice must crack. In the
random hysteria that filled her mind, she wondered fleetingly if perhaps this thing
was like glass, if maybe her voice would make it shatter, explode,
disintegrate, just go away...
In the end, it
did go away; in fact, everything went away as she tumbled to the ground next to
Nathan in a limp puddle of dead limbs and torn clothing. After the shrillness of the screams, the
silence that hung around them rent the air more heavily than sound, and the
room, with the smiling figure of Christ looking benignly down on the lifeless
bodies, made an incongruous sight for those who found them. There was no sign of whatever had killed
them, but if one looked closely enough, a handful of faded words were just
barely visible on the wall beside them.
things I durst not look.
entered his study after ending the disturbing conversation with the curator of
Bolsover Castle sometime before noon, it was to find Buffy sprawled on the
floor amidst a tangle of assorted documents.
She was scowling at one of them, and he wondered idly which case had
provoked her displeasure. He hadn't had
a chance to look at the latest ones, yet.
a case," Giles told her as he crossed the room to ease himself into his
about it," the Slayer grumped sleepily as she reached above her for the
cup of tea sitting precariously near the edge of his desk. He winced at the thought of the sugary
liquid cascading over the carefully printed notes and letters. "I swear, Giles, when it rains it
really pours. And I don't care how
cliché that might sound."
He smiled at
her words and shook his head. It was
true; with the website that Kevin had created for them, the number of cases
that came their way had risen astronomically.
"I mean, we have a case at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire. The curator insists on meeting with us as
soon as possible. We have an
appointment for later this afternoon."
do you see what I see? We have a
gazillion cases." Buffy gestured frantically around her to emphasize her
point, and then frowned. "Wait, is
there a number higher than a gazillion?
Because that's how many cases we have."
many of them involve eleven dead?" he asked calmly as he looked over the
top of his glasses, his fingers folding together in front of him.
was immediate. "Six." When
his eyebrows climbed sceptically towards his hairline, she sighed. "Okay, none. I guess Mrs. Galveston's possessed poodle will just have to
wait. When do we leave?"
drive is about three and a half hours," Giles replied as he reached down
to begin gathering scraps of paper from the floor. "So, fairly shortly.
You may want to wake Angel soon." There was a moment of silence,
and when he looked up from the papers in his hand, his quizzical look was
tinged with amusement. "Is there
really a possessed poodle?"
thinks he's a chipmunk," Buffy informed him cheerfully, a grin spreading
across her face at the mental image that her words conjured. "I call dibs on it. As opposed to the slimy green things in
Gloucester, by the way; that one, I call dibs on not doing."
quirked upwards into a full smile.
"Well, then, I suppose Angel is going to have an interesting time
of it, as I also call...dibs...on not doing it."
grew even wider, and Giles could swear that there was a hint of something evil
lurking in those merry eyes. "That
he is. But you get to tell him."
that he would never be able to bring himself to drive quite as demonically as
Angel, but nonetheless, the countryside sped quickly by. Buffy was settled comfortably next to him in
the passenger seat, her eyes closed against the bright glare of the sun. As was usual when they had to make a long
trip during the day, Angel was curled up in the back beneath his protective
coverings. Giles chuckled silently to
himself. Having a vampire along for the
ride certainly made for some interesting driving rules. Maybe he should write a book.
spill," Buffy said, her voice filling the silence as she shifted, opening
her eyes and turning towards him.
"What's up with our castle?
And by the way, are we talking crumbly, old and abandoned, or shiny,
grunt sounded from the backseat.
non-helpless princess with brains," Buffy quickly amended, and Giles could
practically see her thinking back to that disastrous Halloween when she was
castle was first built sometime in the twelfth century..." he began,
though he didn't get far before she interrupted.
answers my question, I guess."
her interjection and continued on.
"...but it was restored in the seventeenth century by Charles
Cavendish, and further built upon by his son William, the future Duke of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Of course, due to
neglect in the years since, parts of it are not in the best of repair
today. The castle is open to the
public, however, as an historical site and tourist attraction." He glanced
over at her briefly before returning his eyes to the road. "Starting a few months ago, visitors to
a certain wing of the castle began to...well...die. The deaths were quite gruesome, apparently, and the police have
been unable to identify the killer."
there are a lot of hearts being ripped out."
gruesome," Buffy agreed. "So
what makes us think it was something supernatural?"
back to the phone call he had received earlier that day. The curator's voice had been familiar, not
in a particular sense, but rather in its paradoxical combination of desperate certainty
about what she had seen and hesitancy bordering on disbelief. He could only imagine what it must be like
to have your world turned upside down by a sudden and inexplicable encounter
with the world of the paranormal, and then to have to entrust a complete
stranger with the ability to judge your mental capacity based on claims that
you had seen something that couldn't possibly be real. He could not remember a time when he hadn't
known, when he hadn't been absolutely certain.
curator, Eleanor Caldwell, has grown rather suspicious of the circumstances
surrounding the deaths. In particular,
she contacted me about the latest, which took place only two days ago. Two police officers were examining another
set of deaths that occurred earlier in the week, and she'd only left them alone
for a few minutes before she heard gunshots and a great deal of screaming. She swears there could have been no one else
in the castle, which means that she herself is now under some suspicion for the
any possibility that she could have been responsible? Why exactly are we trusting the words of the
potentially crazy, murderous curator lady?
how much Buffy disliked cases where they might find themselves fighting other
humans, Giles hurried to assure her otherwise.
"I am inclined to believe that she wouldn't commit the murders only
to ask for assistance in solving them."
Giles is being all defensive," Buffy murmured, and he briefly caught the
twinkle in her eyes in between glances at the road. "I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess that she has a
really hot voice and you just want to meet her in person. And she's a curator, you'd have lots to talk
careful you don't fall off that limb," he warned good-naturedly. "That most certainly is not
it. And while I appreciate your trying
to set me up with someone you deem to be a...a 'crazy, murderous curator lady,'
I will you have you know..."
theatrically "That I should butt out, right?"
along those lines, yes." Despite
his words, Giles wasn't truly bothered by what might be termed her
'meddling.' He knew that her teasing
was just that - banter to lighten the air, and that she respected his decision
not to enter into a relationship until he felt ready to make that level of
commitment again. Her words were meant
to assure him that she trusted his judgement in accepting cases and that she
knew he wouldn't lead her into a situation that she felt uncomfortable dealing
with unless it was necessary.
internal shake of his head, he returned to the more pressing question at
hand. "When she heard the
screaming, Ms. Caldwell ran back to the room where the murders took place. She claims to have seen something leaving just
as she arrived, but it wasn't a human.
It's quite possible that what we're dealing with is a crazy murderous
ghost, or perhaps a poltergeist."
again until she was reclining in her seat once more. "Don't you just love our job?"
sound from the backseat was the only answer needed for that question.
at Bolsover Castle just after sunset, but even with its features shrouded by
the veil of darkness, it was an impressive sight. Buffy couldn't help but smile as she stepped beneath the two
parallel stone gateways that led into the courtyard. Aligned gateways, Giles had called them; he had chattered on for
almost ten minutes about their significance and what they indicated about the
castle and the family who had owned it.
To make a long story short, and to reduce his monologue to a single word
that would have made Xander proud, they meant luxury. Apparently, the castle had been quite the place to be, back in
the seventeenth century.
From where she
now stood in the courtyard, Buffy could make out a multitude of structures
rising from the gloom. Their faded
honey colour made them easily discernible even in the darkness, and she could
see the main building - what Giles had called the Little Castle - rising above
the wall that encircled the grounds surrounding it. As they moved towards their destination, Angel matched his pace
to hers so that they were walking side by side while Giles strode on ahead to
meet their client. Angel wrapped his
fingers around her hand, and they walked on in companionable silence. With a smile, she set about determinedly
enjoying the walk through the courtyard and gardens, bathed in moonlight with
perhaps ten years older than her was waiting for them at the foot of the stairs
that led up to the Little Castle. She
was twisting her hands nervously together as if unsure whether she should turn
around and leave, but as they drew closer, Buffy could see a hard determination
in the set of her shoulders. The woman
lifted her chin, shaking a few errant curls of chestnut hair out of her face
before briskly approaching them. Her
voice, when she spoke, held a good deal of relief.
Giles? I'm so glad you could make it
down here on such short notice. I'm
Eleanor Caldwell." She held out her hand to shake his before turning to
introduce herself to Buffy and Angel.
As Buffy accepted her hand and murmured her introductions, she found
herself searching the other woman's face, trying to discern any hint of ill
intent that might lurk behind her amicable gaze. She had been largely joking in her comments to Giles earlier in
the day; she didn't truly believe that the woman had committed the murders that
they had been asked to look into.
However, it was nonetheless an uncomfortable question that occasionally
arose over the course of an investigation.
Project Paranormal didn't take human cases, except in extenuating
circumstances; it just wasn't in their job description. There were others who were qualified to take
care of those, others who were qualified to bring human monsters to
justice. She...well, she had a degree
in the other kind of monsters; she just killed and exorcised and slayed,
and it was a not-so-secret terror of hers that one day, she might accidentally
find herself on the killing end of the wrong case.
the dark thoughts out of her head as she felt Angel's fingers return to hers,
gently stroking the tension away. She
smiled up at him, and then tugged him up the stairs towards the door.
lighting really isn't the best," Eleanor said apologetically as Buffy and
Angel reached the top of the stairs.
She reached into a small bag that she held and pulled out a flashlight.
okay; we always come prepared," Angel replied with a hint of humour. He, of course, might as well have a built-in
flashlight as far as his night vision was concerned, Buffy thought as she
pulled out her own not-so-built-in version.
don't have to come with us if you don't want to," Buffy told her. "You know, just in case something
do," Eleanor replied decisively.
"If I'm going to be under suspicion for the deaths of those
officers, I'm damn well going to know what did it in the first place." Her
lips thinned as she pressed them tightly together, her knucklebones straining
against skin as her fingers tightened convulsively around her flashlight. Buffy wasn't certain whether it was in fear
or anger; a little of both, she thought.
Either way, her estimation of the other woman rose.
as Eleanor pulled out a ring of keys and let them in through the cavernous
door. As they slowly made their way
down the dark halls of the building, Eleanor, at Giles' prompting, began to
fill them in on the details of their newest case.
started about five months ago," she began. "There were two students from the University of Derby. From what I could gather, I guess they were
working on an assignment for a class.
There are two little rooms in the master bedchamber designed around the
dual themes of Christianity and Paganism - specifically, the Roman
deities. The artwork is quite
marvellous, and they present quite an attraction for visitors. The students were in the room called Heaven,
which shows scenes from the life of Christ.
I was off that day, so I didn't see anything myself; but from what I
heard later, there was a great deal of screaming, and when the bodies were
found...well, the hearts had been removed, and there was no weapon or killer in
She took a
deep breath and continued on. "The
second set of deaths happened about a month later; it was a family of four, the
parents and two teenage kids. Same
story - hearts removed, no traces. They
have some crazy ex-lover of the mother's in custody, though; they got a full
confession from him and everything, even though there was nothing to place him
at the castle when they died. I'm
certain, now, that he didn't do it.
That confession is probably the only reason why the castle wasn't closed
down, though. If people had thought
there was some crazy murderer still loose and killing people in those rooms,
there's no way we could have kept it open.
then...well, a week ago, the murders started again. A group of three young women was killed, in exactly the same way
as the others. The officers killed two
days ago were investigating their deaths."
By the time
Eleanor was done speaking, her voice tight, they had reached their destination,
a large room, empty of furniture, that was supposed to have been the master
bedchamber back when the castle was still inhabited. From there, they entered another room, which was large enough to
fit the four of them without being too cramped, but still small enough that the
three flashlights trained upon its walls lighted its interior liberally enough
to see without difficulty.
the murders occurred in this room?" Giles waited for confirmation as his
eyes wandered over the walls and ceiling.
Buffy stepped further in, her eyes taking in the elaborately painted
scenes depicting the life of Christ.
family was killed in the other room, Elysium.
I'll take you through there once we're done here, if you'd like."
would probably be best," Giles murmured, drifting over to the far wall to
closely inspect the panelling and the artwork above it. "This is very well done."
Cavendish, who was responsible for many of the renovations in the seventeenth
century, loved this castle a great deal," Eleanor replied.
Buffy broke in
before the two could get too caught up in the details of the room's construction. "You said to Giles over the phone that
you were in the building last time.
What did you see?"
much. The bodies were there, as
marked." Eleanor pointed to the outline of two bodies near the centre of
the room. "There was
blood...everywhere. And...I guess I
have to assume that you won't think I'm crazy since you purport to deal with
this kind of stuff, but...I think I saw a ghost. At least, I saw something dissolving into the wall. It just...oozed right through it." She
shuddered at the mental image that her words conjured. "And if that's the thing that killed
those officers, I hope it suffers whatever horrible death it is that ghosts
suffer." Eleanor paused for a moment, and then spoke again. "I'm sorry, I hope it doesn't seem as
if I'm only concerned about the latest deaths.
silent again, and it was Angel who answered her. "It's just that those are the ones you might be blamed
for. That's understandable," he
said quietly, and Buffy knew exactly what he was thinking. It was hard enough carrying the guilt for
the horrible things that one had done in life; it certainly didn't help
when you had to carry the blame for the actions of others.
wall?" she asked, to break that train of thought.
wall," Eleanor replied, and Buffy headed over to it.
silence for several moments as each of the four made their way around the room,
Christ and his angels watching them from the ceiling as they moved. Finally, Buffy spoke again. "Hey, there's something carved into the
wall over here," she called out over her shoulder.
up, and then moved towards her.
"Oh, yes, someone who once lived here seems to have enjoyed
Renaissance poetry," she said with a small smile, "or at least, to
have been rather familiar with it.
There's others scattered about the room, and in the other room,
too. If I remember correctly, that one
reads as follows:
tears mixed with mine do overflow
"That's sad. Couldn't
they think of something happier to vandalize the walls with?" Buffy was
about to say something else - ask who it was by, what the poem was about - when
a slight prickling at the back of her neck made her stop. Without looking at him, she knew that Angel
felt it, too. "Looks like we've
got company." The truth of her words was affirmed by the chilling air and
the resounding slam as the door closed, trapping the four - five - of them in
Buffy quickly turned to face whatever was alerting her senses as
Angel and Giles came up quickly beside her.
It was definitely a ghost and, Buffy thought wryly, it was definitely
showing its age. It - she - was young
enough, but the dress was so elaborate that anyone with eyes could see that it
came from a different era. The full
skirt brushed the floor, or would have if it had been corporeal, and the tight
bodice compressed her transparent waist.
Had it been solid, Buffy would have felt the urge to brush her fingers
against the intricate trim that adorned it.
"Do you mock my pain?" the ghost asked in a shadowy
whisper. "Do you think to stand
there and speak as if everything is right in this world?"
"I'd hardly say that everything is right," Buffy
replied. "Not when you're killing
virtually everyone who enters this room."
"Only the ones who call me," she whispered, and then she
was moving towards them with astounding speed.
"Good Lord above..." Eleanor began as she stumbled
backwards. The ghost was upon her as
the words left her mouth, and if its translucent shimmering made it appear to
be barely real, the knife, pitted and scarred with age...well, that was definitely
real, and it was moving towards her with a speed that spoke of some kind of
desperate urgency. Buffy didn't stop to
think. Grabbing the other woman by the
arm, she spun Eleanor out of the way and then dove, rolling to avoid the blade
herself. Coming back to her feet, she
shoved the other woman unceremoniously out the door, crossing the threshold
herself to secure more room to move and fight.
Angel and Giles were right behind her.
Turning back towards the room, Buffy balanced herself lightly on
the balls of her feet, preparing herself for whatever the ghost might try
next. But the apparition did not follow
them. She only stared at them for a
long, agonized moment, a look of pure anguish on her face, before flickering
and fading away.
"Wow," Buffy muttered.
"That is one angry ghost."
It was perhaps
an hour later when Eleanor let them into her nearby apartment. There had been no chance, as of yet, for her
three guests to procure rooms for their stay, and Eleanor had insisted on
inviting them to remain with her until they could do so. Thus it was that in a very small amount of
time, her parlour had been commandeered as something of a research
central. The space was somewhat crowded
with all four of them, but no one complained as they got down to work searching
for deaths in and around the castle, with emphasis on the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, as indicated by their ghostly visitor's manner of dress.
suitably impressed with the professional manner in which the three paranormal
investigators conducted their research following what had been the most
harrowing experience of her entire life.
They looked as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened - and if they
often took cases like this, she supposed that nothing had. Mr. Giles was coolly and collectedly
entering search terms into the laptop that sat on his knees. The petite blonde who looked so fragile and
yet was so deceptively strong, and the silent and decidedly gorgeous man who
sat next to her, were flipping through her small collection of local history
books. Eleanor...well, she wouldn't
have minded a drink or three, though she refused to let herself fall to pieces
now, in front of them. She already felt
useless enough. Mr. Giles had hoped
that she would know details about who the ghost woman could have possibly been,
and what might have led to her present residence in Heaven and Elysium;
unfortunately, Eleanor had had to admit that her interest and expertise in the
history of the castle ran more along the lines of the architecture and artwork
than the individuals who had once inhabited it. All she had been able to contribute was that she did, vaguely, recall
something about a scandalous death that had occurred sometime in the early
more about the rooms, then," Mr. Giles prompted, looking up from his
there were other inscriptions in the rooms," Buffy added. "Because that ghost definitely didn't
appear until the moment that poem came up."
Eleanor gave a
silent sigh of relief; here was something that she could help with, something
that could perhaps take her mind off thoughts of complete and utter panic. She stood and began to pace. "Yes, there are a number of them. For instance, "She, she is dead;
yes," Mr. Giles broke in.
"From Donne's "An Anatomy of the World," I believe."
He pushed his glasses more firmly onto the bridge of his nose, and Eleanor
couldn't help but smile a little. Donne
had always been a favourite of hers, and speaking of him allowed her to cross
more firmly into familiar territory.
means...what?" Buffy demanded.
"And who? The name sounds
Donne, one of the major authors of the seventeenth century. If you've ever taken a class in poetry,
you've probably studied something of his.
"An Anatomy of the World" is one of his longer poems, written
upon the death of the young daughter of one of his patrons," Eleanor
is long?" Buffy asked curiously.
vicinity of five hundred lines," Mr. Giles answered absent-mindedly, his
attention once more returned to the search at hand.
whatever happened to haikus? Or
couplets? Couplets are nice."
you claimed to like poetry," the older man accused.
do. But if you have time to read
five hundred lines of poetry, I want to know where you found it so that
I can buy some, too." Eleanor had to fight another smile. Glancing at the man who sat silently beside
Buffy and was obviously involved with her, she had the feeling that the petite
blonde spent most of her free time much more...constructively.
rather appropriate for Donne's poetry to be found in those two specific rooms,
isn't it?" Mr. Giles commented.
that?" Buffy asked.
happy to fill her in while Mr. Giles continued to work. "Donne is known for the two sides of
his poetry. On the one hand, much of
the poetry believed to be written in his early years is love poetry of a
decidedly erotic nature. On the other
hand, he wrote a great deal of religious poetry as well."
It was silent
for a few moments. Eleanor, unwilling
to distract them and unsure how much help she could be to them, sat silently,
trying not to fidget. She could only
hope that her guests were as efficient as they appeared to be. She was desperate to have this situation
dealt with as soon as possible, both for the peace of mind of the victims'
families and, she had to admit, for her own sake. The police had been looking at her askance since the last
murders; after the three young tourists had been killed a week ago, the castle
had been temporarily closed, and she had thus been the only other human
present when the officers had been killed two days ago. Eleanor had the distinct impression that the
instant something else went wrong, she would be in a whole hell of a lot of
trouble, regardless of her own innocence.
her nerves, it wasn't long before Giles spoke up again. "Ahh, I think I've found it. It appears that there was a mass murder that
occurred in the castle in 1622. On the
morning of January 27th, five guests were found murdered in their beds, dead from
asphyxiation. On the same day, Sophia
Cavendish was also found dead in...yes, in the room Heaven." He smiled in
triumph. "She died from a stomach
wound, and it was never conclusively determined whether the wound was self
inflicted or dealt by another. There
were rumours among the servants that she was responsible for the other deaths,
though her brother William argued vociferously that she was just another victim
of whoever had murdered the others, despite the discrepancies in the manner of
her death. I imagine that if nothing
else, he was attempting to protect his family's name."
could either be killing people now in retribution for her death, or because
she's insane. Great." Buffy closed
the book she had been reading and leaned back against Angel's shoulder.
now?" Angel asked abruptly, speaking for the first time since he had
entered the apartment. Eleanor was
almost startled to hear him speak.
"If Sophia's ghost is doing this, why now? Why not a hundred, two hundred years
first victims. Could they have done
something to set her off?" Buffy asked.
She turned to Eleanor.
"What were their names?"
Gibbs and Nathan Southwell, I believe."
the blonde said decisively. "We'll
do the sleep thing for a few hours, and then Giles can go talk to the parents
in the morning and see if there's anything about them we should know. Angel and I can check out the other
room. Eleanor..." she glanced at
Eleanor as if hoping that the other woman wouldn't take her next words in the
wrong way. Eleanor could tell that the
younger woman didn't want to be responsible if anything were to happen to her,
and, smiling wryly, she spoke to save Buffy the trouble of voicing her concern.
quite happily stay here, out of reach of the murderous ghost who will now haunt
my every nightmare."
restlessly within the confines of the room, capable, now that she is here, of
allowing her grief to fully surface.
She comes frequently when left to her own devices, which these days is
more often than not. There is no anger
at this thought, only more sadness. She
blames no one for desiring to evade her presence. Sometimes, Sophia can barely stand it herself; on these days, she
wishes for nothing more than to step free from the prison of her own pale skin,
to shed the golden hair and discard the delicate frame, to shroud the wide blue
eyes that have seen too much. She wants
to be nothing, to loosen herself from the confines of this world and to scatter
the broken remnants of her soul upon the wind.
It is only
here, in the room they call Heaven, that she feels safe enough to expose her
fragile self enough to truly feel alive.
On occasion she visits its inverted twin; she likes to have the choice,
sometimes, when she has so few outside of this sanctuary. Outside of these
rooms, she walks as if dead to the world, the tendrils of her grief curled
tightly. She wraps them into herself,
uses them as a veil, a shield, a fortress.
No one can reach her; oh, God, she hopes no one can hurt her. There has been enough of that.
She sits away
from the door, curled into a chair in the corner. Her head leans back against the wall and for a brief moment, she
closes her eyes before opening them to gaze upwards at the rendition of Christ. Finally, she turns her face into the wall
and fumbles the small, sharp knife out of the suppleness of her boot. Idly, she begins to write upon the walls, as
she occasionally does when she comes here, whispering the words aloud when she
with sighs, and surrounded with tears,
Hither I come
to seek the spring."
that she shouldn't deface the walls with her grief; these rooms are not
hers. She enters them only when her
brother, the Viscount, is elsewhere, and she must make certain that the words
are not easily discernible to casual visitors.
But all too often, she is tired of trying to hide her grief, and the
temptation to leave the mark of her suffering is too great.
she carves are ones she remembers from her readings. Poetry has been a passion of hers since the days of her
childhood, when grief and unhappiness were only words on paper, mere phrases
designed to evoke sympathy within her heart but incapable of stirring true
empathy. She had hardly known what the
words meant, then. Poetry had been a
vicarious experience, something through which she could attempt to understand
emotions and experiences she had yet to encounter. Now, the words resonate within her heart, virtually defining her
every thought. They are a part of her.
if it will ever stop.
As he knocked
on the front door of the small house in Birmingham, Giles mentally steeled
himself for his appointment with Mrs. Gibbs.
Over the phone, he had told her only that he worked for a small
investigation company that had been hired to look into the murders at Bolsover
Castle, and he was grateful that she had acquiesced to his request for
information. He hated when he had to do
this, questioning grieving relatives and friends and dredging up memories more
comfortably left alone. It reminded him
all too well of how he had felt after Jenny's death, after Buffy's death, after
Ella's death. It reminded him of the
reactions of so many of the Slayers' parents, the angry, tearful recriminations
that he had gotten their beloved daughters killed. He could face demons and ghosts, vampires
and monsters; it was this human thing called grief that he sometimes felt he
could hardly bear.
Mrs. Gibbs was
a short woman with dark hair and eyes that were guarded and cautious as she led
him into the parlour. He could remember
the sound of her voice during their brief conversation over the telephone,
filled with a mixture of resentment at his intrusion and a desire to be helpful
for the sake of her daughter's memory.
As they sat
and she poured him a cup of tea, she looked up at him expectantly. "What is it you want to know, Mr.
attempting to determine the exact manner of the...ahem...deaths. That is, we are trying to determine who
could have committed the murders."
him for a long moment. "I thought
they decided it was the same guy who killed that family."
well, due to the recent murders at the castle, we have reason to believe that
it has actually been a string of imitation crimes," Giles forced himself
to lie smoothly. "Therefore, the
cases have been reopened."
Mrs. Gibbs was
silent for a long, tense moment before she finally answered. "When they first told me that Tabitha
was dead," she said abruptly, "I thought that maybe it was her. That she'd done it herself."
thought that your daughter had committed a murder-suicide? Why would you think that, Mrs. Gibbs?"
she was with. They used to date. Tabitha was...crazy about him. They'd been together a few months, and I
think Tabitha lost it a little when he broke up with her. I don't mean that she went crazy; she was
just depressed. Except that I thought
that...maybe, in that moment, she had gone a little crazy, that she decided to
take out her anger in a way that would...really get her point across."
wasn't a suicide."
"No. There was no weapon left in the room,
nothing that could have...cut...them like that. Whoever did it took the weapon with them." She looked as if
she wanted to say something more, but bit her lip as if afraid to. Giles waited, and she finally blurted the
rest out. "I think she might have,
if it hadn't happened. Killed herself,
I mean. Eventually, when she realized
he wasn't going to come back."
that he had what he needed, Giles didn't stay for much longer. After awkwardly and genuinely making the
appropriate consolatory remarks, he asked a few more brief questions to
reinforce the validity of his visit, and then took his leave.
As he walked
towards the Discovery, the words that Sophia's ghost had spoken the night before
rang through his mind. "Do you
mock my pain?" she had demanded.
"Only the ones who call me." Sophia and Tabitha - two
women, separated by almost four hundred years, and both seemingly in a great
deal of emotional distress. He was
confident that this was the link between them, and that it was Tabitha's grief
that had called the ghost forth.
this room's sure different from the other one," Buffy said wryly as she
glanced around at the indolently arrayed deities that populated Elysium. "Those are some naughty gods. I wonder what poems are on these
walls? Eleanor said that poet wrote
love poems too, right?"
did. Some very good ones, in
fact." Angel smiled slightly, and then recited from memory:
old fool, unruly sun,
windows, and through curtains, call on us?"
recite this guy?" Buffy asked jokingly.
The poem was certainly appropriate.
She would have to look it up, or, better yet, have Angel read it to her
He was silent
for a moment before responding.
"Sometimes...sometimes I prefer to read authors who lived and died
before I was born. It puts me in the
same boat as the rest of the world.
It's...normal. I don't have to
wonder where I was when they were writing, what city or settlement I was
terrorizing at the time."
out to squeeze his hand. "I
understand. Will you read him to me,
definitely," he grinned.
"Donne has some very interesting lyrics."
around the room; there was no ghost in sight.
"Well, apparently that wasn't one of the ones our ghost likes. Guess she wants her poetry more
morbid." They separated to begin their search, moving around the room as
they peered at the walls.
one," he murmured a few moments later, his keen eyesight picking out the
faded scratches with ease.
over to him and looked at the words.
"I wonder if she can't leave this room, either." She raised an
eyebrow in question, and when he nodded, ran her fingers over the letters. "If we die, Giles is so going to
"Little think'st thou
will freeze anon, and that I shall
find thee fal'n, or not at all."
The effect of
the spoken words was immediate. The air
gave a brief shimmer as the ghost glided effortlessly out of the wall.
returned," Sophia said with a smile as she drifted towards them. "You want me to take away the
pain. You want me to end it."
quite." Not wanting to take a chance, and knowing that it would be useless
to engage in a fight - and because they had called Sophia forth to give her a
very specific test - Buffy and Angel backed their way out of the room.
they were out of the room, Sophia stopped her advance and stared after them in
consternation, unable to follow.
"I have to make it stop," she pleaded, reaching out to
them. As soon as her hand crossed the
threshold, she faded away.
she is tied here. When do we get rid of
shouldn't be back for a couple of hours yet," Angel replied. "We could see if we can get some more
research done until then."
could show me how interesting those lyrics are."
later, as he watched Giles and Buffy set up for the spell they were about to
perform, Angel paced restlessly outside the door to Heaven. He couldn't help but think, with a touch of
dark humour, that he'd never expected to use that word in conjunction with
himself. In a way, it was almost appropriate
to find himself standing outside of a room with such a name, looking in on
those closest to him while he himself hovered on the other side of the
movements in front of the door, Angel watched as the others continued their
preparations. Giles was certain that
grief was the key, and that a spell to dispel Sophia's unhappiness was all that
was needed to calm her spirit and send it on from this realm. As Angel resumed his pacing, he wasn't so
certain. His senses were screaming at
him, even though Sophia's ghost was nowhere in sight.
With a low
growl of frustration, he turned his head towards the door that lead out of the
bedchamber in which he stood. Something
in the house was calling to him, and he knew he wouldn't be able to concentrate
until he found out what it was. He
glanced back at Buffy and Giles, who were still busy, and as if sensing his
preoccupation, Buffy looked up at him.
A frown furrowed her brow as she tilted her head to watch him.
right back," he told her quietly.
"I just want to check something out." Turning, he strode off,
following the vague tugging of his preternatural senses.
He came to a
stop in the shadowy hallway a few short moments later and briefly touched his
fingers against the door that he stood before.
Pushing it open, he entered and surveyed the emptiness that filled it.
It wasn't long
before he found the niche in the far wall, and he wasn't surprised to find
that, unlike the rest of the room, it was occupied. He pulled out a slim book, scratched and scarred, with bindings
that looked about to fall off. It was
in such bad condition that he wasn't sure if it was even readable. He very carefully opened it and glanced at
the discoloured, almost invisible letters that filled each page. It was a diary, and from the aura of what
felt suspiciously like grief emanating forth from it, he was certain that it
must have been Sophia's.
through the pages of the decaying book, he began to skim through the words of
pain that filled its pages.
she trails her fingers over the delicate panelling. The silence pounds relentlessly in her ears; wrapped in its
folds, she can remember holding thick, soft pillows against pale, warm
faces. They had been unable to gather
air for frantic screams, unable to draw breath to give manifestation to their
pain. It is this muteness that haunts
her now; no one should be unable to exhibit their pain. If she cannot bring herself to regret their
deaths, at the very least she can repent of her methods. She should have done it differently. She will not make the same constricting
flash through her memory as her eyes move from one angelic figure to the next
in the room they call Heaven, but it isn't only their faces that she sees. There is another, and as her fingers find
the carven words that mark her last visit, Sophia lingers over every detail
that her memory yields - the smiles, the laughs, the blissful evenings spent in
gossip. These golden images are too
few; as she greedily sifts through them, all too soon they are gone and the
only ones that remain are the memories of tears, of pleas and pain and
grief. They reach their culmination in
the two images that have driven her for so long, even though more than six
years have passed. Arbella, her beloved
cousin, enters the Tower. Arbella lies
still and white as she is prepared for her final rest after wasting away, for
no other reason than for daring to grasp the happiness that only love and
marriage could bring her.
is dead; she's dead," her broken voice whispers as she turns away from
the inscription, and the sound is a mingling of pain and relief. "Nothing can hurt her now." The
words are whispered hysterically, and she is desperate to believe them. "Nothing can hurt any of them
For this reason,
she cannot repent of her actions, and thus there can never be true
forgiveness. She kneels in a daze of
pain, unable to stop herself from leaving a few last desperate words at the
base of the wall, where a straight line will lead directly to the Saviour's
feet. It is one last act before the one
that will end everything.
things I durst not look," she whispers fervently, and she turns her
back to Him. She cannot look; she must
not look. In giving them release from
this life, she has earned her damnation, and even He cannot save her now. And so it is that she stares at the door,
which leans slightly ajar, as she slides the blade into her own flesh and lets
the blood spill crimsonly forth. She
smiles through the throbbing ache, because she has done it right, this
time. Her pain is not invisible, not
silent like the deaths she dealt the others.
It will scream loud and clear as it washes the cold floor, revealing its
story to all who pass.
No hell can
be worse than this life. It is a certainty
that comforts her as she dies.
at the diary for a long moment after he closed it, Sophia Cavendish's grief
still echoing through his mind. That
answered the question of why her ghost was so inextricably tied to the two
rooms - or, more specifically, to the lines of poetry engraved into the walls
of the rooms. Giles would certainly be
interested to know...
He glanced at
his watch, and then, tossing the diary aside with a curse, he took off towards
the room where he had left the others.
If they had decided, following his disappearance, to go ahead without
him...he cursed himself again as he sped through the halls.
just any ordinary ghost; it was going to take more than a mere spell to banish
it from this realm.
don't think it worked. Giles, it
didn't work!" The last words were shouted as Buffy spun away from the
murderous ghost who was definitely still there.
can see that!" The former Watcher ducked as Sophia's ghost abandoned Buffy
and lunged towards him instead, as if drawn by the sound of his voice. Regretfully, he eyed the door that she was,
unfortunately, preventing him from reaching.
When Buffy and
Giles had finished setting up for the spell and Angel still hadn't returned,
they had waited for several moments before deciding to carry out the ritual
without him. The sooner it was over,
the sooner they could all go home.
Besides, simple spells were pretty standard business for them, and how
different could this one possibly be?
Buffy thought without humour, pretty damn different.
new plan. Let's not get
plan," Angel's voice suddenly spoke up from the doorway.
frantically on the spot, her eyes roving from one moving figure to the next as
she attempted to pick her first victim.
"How can I let you live?
You can never be happy!"
least we weren't practically the last ones to be disabused of that
notion after all," Buffy quipped at Angel as she ducked and then rolled
smoothly to her feet in avoidance of Sophia's next attack.
cannot deal with the pain."
Slayer who's died twice," Buffy growled.
"Vampire with a soul.
Former Watcher guy with lots of emotional baggage. Trust me, we've dealt. We're dealing, we have to."
why I must give you rest!"
for the sentiment, but you can keep it."
Buffy, Angel grabbed her arm. "Her
grief is too strongly associated with the words in this room. They're linked; in a way, she's a part of
me a sledgehammer and we'll take them all down at the same time." She
considered for a moment, eyeing the nearest wall, and then shrugged and drew
back her fist. "Or not. This will work, too."
at her in shock.
it's us or the artwork."
I suppose, when you put it that way..."
do. I so very, very do.
think that will be necessary," Angel told her. "Though I'll be happy to help if it is. I think she'll leave without physical
Sophia whispered. "How can you
stand it? How can you stand the
at Angel, looked at Giles, and thought about all of the horrible things they
had seen and done, all of the difficult decisions they had been forced to make
over the years. She thought about all
of the misery and heartache that had so often ensued. But no matter how many moments of pain marked their lives, it
wasn't all darkness and shadows. There
was the laughter and the companionship, the jokes and the fun and the
happiness. The look of fond indulgence
on Giles' face when she did something he didn't understand; the way he made her
feel as if she had a real father again.
The way Angel said her name, and the way he touched her as if nothing
else in the world mattered.
and it was as if he had read her mind.
"Because the rewards are worth it."
for a moment, a look of anguished indecision on her features, before she
desperately shook her head. "They
cannot be. They can never be."
not yours to decide, not for others," Angel told her quietly. He looked her in the eye, and then spoke
face of all the world is changed, I think,
I heard the footsteps of thy soul
oh, still, beside me, as they stole
and the dreadful outer brink
death, where I, who thought to sink,
up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in
a new rhythm."
As he finished
reciting, Sophia stopped again, her face frozen into an expression of shock.
written more than two hundred years after you died, by a woman named Elizabeth
for her husband, Robert. They were very
happy together, and very much in love.
Would you have taken her life before she could find that? Wouldn't that be equivalent to preventing
her happiness, and that of the man who would have become her husband? If someone decides it's worth it, why would
you try to force them to view their life exclusively in terms of pain? To live is to have the potential for grief
and sadness, but also the potential for joy."
uncertainty had returned, and Sophia looked from face to face as the basis of
her ghostly existence disintegrated.
Finally, she took a slow step back, and then looked at Angel as if
asking for permission. When he smiled
gently at her, she gave a sigh somewhere between acceptance and peace, and then
flickered once, twice, and was suddenly gone.
Giles breathed after a long, still moment.
"If her power was tied to the poetry in this room, and was triggered
by grief, you essentially stripped her of it by confronting her with a poem of
joy and love, one that she could not possibly have read before."
really was a poetry freak, wasn't she?" Buffy murmured.
that poetry was the only way for her to express her grief, until she decided
that murder worked better." When they both looked at him inquisitively,
Angel shrugged his shoulders. "I
found her diary. That's why I was
the first time in my life, I won't yell at someone for reading a girl's
diary," Buffy said as she shook her head.
really is remarkable," Giles observed with a faraway look in his
eyes. "It brings to mind a few
lines...what were they? Oh, yes.
if unfit for tombs and hearse
be, it will be fit for verse;
And if no
piece of chronicle we prove,
in sonnets pretty rooms."
at him blankly. Even Angel raised an
in exasperation. "From Donne's
"The Canonization." I was
simply commenting on the fact that Sophia, in a manner of speaking, made these
rooms into a poem of personal grief and that it is a very sad legacy for what
was obviously a very sad life." He looked around the room and then headed
towards the door. "Well, if that
is all, we'd best let Ms. Caldwell know that Bolsover Castle is safe once
more." He glanced back over his shoulder.
"And with any luck, no one will be able to make a case against
for Angel's hand as they left the room, slowly following in Giles' wake. She'd never thought to say it, but she never
wanted to return to Heaven again...not to this one, at least. "That was a nice touch, with the happy
love story and all."
Angel said, his face almost sheepish, "what I didn't tell her is
that they were forced to elope in order to marry, and that Elizabeth was
subsequently disowned by her father, who refused to allow any of his children
to marry. He never spoke to her
again. She was also an invalid for most
of her life, and died fifteen years after her marriage. Their son was only twelve, and Robert
Browning never remarried."
her head in mock reproof, as if disappointed in him. "Lying to ghosts. To
what depths will you stoop next?"
point," he said simply, "is that despite all of that, they knew
happiness. Their love story is
famous." He sent her a sidelong glance.
"Out of curiosity, did you ever read "Sonnets From the
started," she said honestly, thinking about the book of poetry he had
given her for her eighteenth birthday.
"But then you left, and, well...I wasn't really in the mood for
love sonnets after that." She sent him a sidelong glance. "I could probably be persuaded to start
over, if you were really...you know...persuasive."
A slow smile
spread over his face as they walked out the door of Bolsover Castle. "Well, then. I should have a copy lying around somewhere at home."
Credit goes to
Jo for the idea. Thank you!
"Songs of Sadness," is a vague reference to one of Donne's
collections of poetry, Songs and Sonnets, from which a number of the
poems quoted in this story were taken.
to describe Bolsover Castle accurately; unfortunately, however, I have never
been there myself and my descriptions are thus based on pictures. For more information about the castle, a
good site can be found here: http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/castles/bolsover.shtml. Images of Heaven and Elysium can,
respectively, be found here: http://flickr.com/photos/xglitterbatx/2758313276/
and here: http://flickr.com/photos/11763518@N00/499871995.
to Arbella Stuart are in reference to the seventeenth-century noblewoman. As a descendant of King Henry VII, she was
in line for the throne. She eventually
married William Seymour, also in line for the throne, though much more
distantly; however, the marriage took place without the permission of King
James, who had her locked in the Tower, where she died. As she was a cousin of the William Cavendish
responsible for many of the renovations to Bolsover Castle, I couldn't resist
using her as the basis for Sophia's grief.
however, is 100% fictional. There are
thus no Donne poems carved into the walls of Heaven and Elysium, and no mass
murder (that I know of) that was ever committed at Bolsover Castle by a
grief-stricken woman in the seventeenth century.
In regards to
William Cavendish's rank, according to Wikipedia, he became a Viscount in 1620,
and rose through the ranks to become the Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1665.
quoted is credited as follows, in order of initial appearance.
She, she is
dead; she's dead: when thou know'st this,
how lame a cripple this world is.
"An Anatomy of the World: The First Anniversary"
things I durst not look.
"Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward"
mixed with mine do overflow
"A Valediction of Weeping"
sighs, and surrounded with tears,
Hither I come
to seek the spring.
Busy old fool,
Why dost thou
windows, and through curtains, call on us?
"The Sun Rising"
That it will
freeze anon, and that I shall
thee fal'n, or not at all.
The face of
all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I
heard the footsteps of thy soul
oh, still, beside me, as they stole
Betwixt me and
the dreadful outer brink
death, where I, who thought to sink,
Was caught up
into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a
Barrett Browning, "Sonnets From the Portuguese," Sonnet VII
And if unfit
for tombs and hearse
Our legend be,
it will be fit for verse;
And if no
piece of chronicle we prove,
We'll build in
sonnets pretty rooms.