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PROJECT PARANORMAL STORY TEMPLATE

Beginnings

Project Paranormal

Author: Dark Star

Season 1

Part 1

 

**

Summary: England's green and pleasant land…

 

Notes: The places visited in this story are real, but I have taken some… liberties with the details. Correct info will be listed at the end of the story. The summary alludes to the last line of William Blake's poem, Jerusalem. 

 

Special Thanks to Jo and Becks, who supported and soothed all the way through this. Thanks guys - I couldn't have done it without you!

 

**

 

Beginnings

 

 

"And, after you died… what happened then?"

 

"Nothing." The vampire settled back in his chair, and added; "I don't remember anything else until I saw Buffy in Wes' apartment."

 

His companion sighed, and seeing his disappointment, Angel added, "I'm sorry, Giles."

 

"No… that's fine." Rupert Giles hurried to add. "Thank you for your… concise account of the events leading up to that point. Much of your story corresponds with the journal that," his eyes flicked to Angel's face, "Connor wrote for us."

 

Angel flinched, ever so slightly, at the mention of his son's name. "If I remember anything else…"

 

"Yes, yes, that would be most helpful." Giles was already clearing away the paperwork he'd used for Angel's account, eager to call an end to his interview with the vampire.

 

"Giles…" Angel began, suddenly feeling sorry for the man. "About bringing me back from…"

 

Giles' head snapped up. "Let's get one thing straight," he said tersely. "I did this for Buffy, not for you. If it had been up to me…" he let his words trail away, and Angel nodded.

 

"I understand," he replied softly, watching his companion rise to his feet. "It won't be long and I'll be out of your hair," he promised.

 

"I told Buffy we would get you well again," Giles said evenly. "Until you've got your strength back, you'll stay here." He said no more, but the message was quite clear to Angel. I'll put up with you for her sake. After that, I don't care.

 

Giles turned away and crossed to the door; the hair on the back of his neck prickled at turning his back on the vampire, but he knew he could show no weakness to him. The daylight was refreshing, and safe, and as he descended the wooden steps, he watched Buffy shepherding about eight or nine girls out into the courtyard for their afternoon workout.

 

Carefully skirting round the girls, he made his way to the side door of the building and went inside. Down the hall he saw two more potentials - slayers - he reminded himself, chattering in the kitchen; both waved when they saw him, and he exchanged pleasantries with the girls for a few minutes, and also with Lucy who emerged out of the downstairs loo and smiled shyly at him as he passed by.

 

Buffy's voice wafted in through the open window of his study, and he sighed with relief as he entered his office sanctuary and away from all the young girls that now habited his home. He wasn't entirely sure what he was going to do with all of them - the prospect of them living indefinitely with him was terrifying - but he had been looking into the possibility of finding them inexpensive accommodation in the nearby village of Westbury, perhaps rooming with friends of his. Some of the older girls were showing signs of wanting their independence, but most of them were too young to be able to fend on their own. What had once been his spacious and tranquil country residence now seemed to be bursting at the seams with the addition of 18 young and boisterous girls. Adding Buffy and the vampire to the mix just made things worse, but he couldn't deny that having his slayer back was something that he greatly appreciated.

 

Pulling the black leather chair around, he was met by the glaring green eyes of Aristotle. Shooing the cat had no effect, and only when he went to pick him up, the ginger tom jumped down on his own accord and leisurely strolled off in search of somewhere else to sleep. The moody creature had just turned up on his doorstep one day and refused to move on; but since the arrival of 18 girls on the scene, he had spent more time hiding in quieter places - such as Giles's study.

 

Giles settled himself in his swivel chair and picked up his stack of mail. The arrival of the postman's red van had become the highlight of the day for many of the girls as they waited for news of home, or the opportunity to flirt with a new member of the male species. His own post had increased noticeably within the last year or so, since his return to England with the girls in his care.

 

He sorted out the brown envelopes that always seemed to contain demands for money, and he wondered what had happened to the courteous requests of yesteryear. Today it looked like rates and the water bill - both high because of the size of the house. His other post consisted of a request from Wessex University asking him to give a speech on Greek myths and legends, a photograph from the local archaeological Society asking if he could identify a strange object recently unearthed from a Roman excavation; Two letters, one to be forwarded to the local Coven - given that the address wasn't exactly in the phone book - and he put that to one side to give to Ella when he saw her tomorrow evening. The other was a reminder to renew his membership of Phenomena - a great source of rare and unusual research material that was often impossible to find by any other means.

 

The ringing of the telephone on his desk distracted his thoughts, and he picked up the receiver.

 

"Hello? Yes, this is Rupert Giles…"

 

He listened with growing interest as the caller explained how a friend had given him Giles' number, because he had a reputation 'for dealing with strange things'.

 

"Really?" Giles replied, feeling pleased by his apparent notoriety, and asked curiously, "How may I help you?"

 

"I'm the Keeper of the Chalice Well." The other man replied with flair. "At Glastonbury." He added, when there was no immediate response.

 

"Yes, I know it," Giles responded. "I've been there - it really is a beautiful place."

 

"Thank you," came the reply. "Normally I'd agree with you. But at the moment the well is… nasty. There's all this green stuff bubbling out of it and…"

 

Giles blinked. "Perhaps a plumber might be a better…"

 

"…there's things in it." 

 

"Things?"

 

"Yes." The Keeper's voice dropped, apparently in case somebody was eavesdropping on their conversation. "Long, slimy things." He paused, and then added, "It's not good for business, I can tell you. The Chalice Well is a popular tourist attraction, but we've had to put people off because they're scared of what's happening. That's not a reputation that we want."

 

"Indeed so." Giles conferred, sliding a pen and paper closer to him. "Why don't you give me details of what's happening, and I'll see if I can be of service to you?"

 

**

 

Organising the new slayers into groups for their martial arts assignments, Buffy tried to ignore the general animosity her presence seemed to produce in some of the girls. To some, she was just another slayer; no better than them, but for some reason treated with more respect, and they resented that. Some held her in awe, as the Slayer - the one who had single-handedly chased away every big bad that had ever dared to cross her path. There was much speculation on what was her relationship with Giles, and with the vampire that lived over the garage. And there was a great deal of speculation on why Giles would bother to save a vampire when it was their purpose in life to destroy them.

 

Buffy suspected that a lot of the dissention stemmed from the fact that her arrival had 'messed things up," as she had heard Laura exclaim loudly to the other slayers - making sure it had been overheard by the interloper. She had to admit that her arrival with Angel had indeed created chaos among the group.

 

Accommodation had been the first casualty: the house was large, 6 bedrooms, and Giles of course had the Master suite. 18 Girls spread among the remaining 5 rooms was cramped, but not unbearably so, and the flat over the garage was especially popular.

 

Giles had decided that the flat was the ideal place for Angel; very little direct sunlight, self-contained with its own kitchen and bathroom, and most importantly, the furthest point from the house that he could find.

 

He allocated the smallest bedroom to Buffy, cramping the girls still further, and aware of their hostility to her, Buffy suggested she made a temporary bed up in Angel's flat so that she could look after him.

 

"You will do no such thing," Giles had replied, horrified. "I forbid it."

 

He winced inwardly at his bad choice of words. He had become used to his slayers actually listening to him of late, and he had forgotten that Buffy tended to have her own agenda.

 

"How do you intend to stop me?" She had asked sweetly, and Giles recognised that expression immediately.

 

"By appealing to your sense of propriety," he delicately replied.

 

"What do you think is going to happen?" Buffy exclaimed in exasperation. "We're not together any more. Angel has been through a traumatic experience, and I just want to help him."

 

"I understand that," he replied, his tone softer. "But think about this, Buffy. We have a lot of impressionable girls here; it simply won't do for a slayer to sleep in the same room as a vampire. It might make them think that vampires are normal people and therefore harmless."

 

"But…" Buffy took a deep breath to calm herself, and added helplessly, "He needs me, Giles."

 

Giles took in her bleak expression, and with those four words of hers, he knew he'd lost the discussion. If he was to keep any kind of control over the situation, he had to acknowledge how she felt.

 

"I know, " he allowed. "I appreciate your need to be with him, Buffy. All I ask is that you show some… decorum for the sake of the girls."

 

"Fine," she agreed reluctantly. "I look after Angel, but I sleep in my room. Will that suit you?"

 

Buffy gave a tight smile at the memory. She was certain that he knew she had actually spent most of the night in Angel's room on several occasions, but had returned to the house before any of the girls were up; they hadn't yet got used to the unsocial hours that a slayer had to keep.

 

The hairs on her arms were prickling, and she had the distinct impression of being watched. She glanced up to the window of Angel's flat. She couldn't see him, but she knew that he was there, lurking back away from the light and watching the girls exercising. Or maybe he was watching her, her errant thoughts suggested, and she unconsciously adjusted her stance to look more professional.

 

Her attention was whisked back to the present by a loud protest from one of the girls declaring angrily, "You did that on purpose!"

 

Buffy sighed. Vi and Sarah were facing off to each other, both posturing and baring their teeth. The petite French girl - was her name  Chantal or Sherry or something like that? - had insinuated herself in between them, trying to keep them apart, but her diminutive form was proving less than a match for the older girls.

 

"Cut that out," Buffy said sharply; all three girls jumped at the command, but nobody moved and Buffy strode over to stop the altercation before it developed into a free-for-all.

 

**

 

The problem at the Well sounded pretty straightforward to Giles, and he told the Keeper that he believed that he would be able to help restore the equilibrium with a simple spell. After the phone conversation, he carefully looked up the ingredients of the spell that he wanted, and began gathering ingredients together from the well-stocked pantry in the kitchen. The book and supplies went into his bag, but before he could load things in the car, the telephone rang again.

 

***

 

Coming in from the courtyard, Buffy found Giles coming out of his study. He had his bag under his arm, and she asked, "Going out?"

 

"I have something to deal with," he confirmed. "Buffy, I was just about to come looking for you."

 

"Lucky you," she responded. "Here I am."

 

"Quite so," he replied absently, and he had that look about him that instantly told her he was concerned.

 

"What is it, Giles?"

 

"I've just had a call from a friend of mine in Wales, asking for a bit of help, pretty urgently. But I've got this prior appointment at Glastonbury that needs dealing with first."  He turned to go back into the study, and Buffy followed him. "I need somebody I can trust to deal with the other problem, and I want you to go to Wales and help him out."

 

"By doing what?"

 

"Have you ever heard of the Holy Grail?" Giles replied unexpectedly.

 

Buffy blinked. "Sure," she shrugged, wondering where this was going. "I saw Excalibur."

 

"Good," Giles responded, not entirely certain if she was joking or not. "According to legend, the Holy Grail is believed to be a cup used at the Last Supper by Jesus, and brought into this country by Joseph of Arimethea. The whereabouts of the cup now is in dispute, but some people believe it to be in safe keeping in Wales - at a place called Nanteos."

 

"And this is relevant because…?"

 

"The Grail has disappeared." Giles said dramatically. He picked up a book from the desk and showed Buffy a picture of a shabby but ordinary-looking wooden bowl-shaped cup, and added, "I've just had a call from the current resident of Nanteos, Alexander Powell. His family have been guardians of the cup for Centuries. The disappearance of the cup is obviously of great concern, and not really something that the police could deal with properly. The Powell Estate is also said to be haunted - though I've never seen anything myself - and the ghosts are being… a nuisance."

 

"I thought you said nobody knew where it was?"

 

"There is a wooden cup at Nanteos; I've seen it, in fact. But as to whether it really is the Grail… well, there's no way to know for sure."

 

Buffy wasn't sure she wanted to be a ghost hunter, or a cup seeker, but she was fed up, and anything was better than with being stuck in the house with a bunch of resentful girls.

 

"Why not?" she agreed. "I'll take Angel. It'll be good for him to get out."

 

Giles hesitated. He didn't like the idea much, but leaving him here with the girls was even less appealing. He nodded curtly. "I told Alexander that I would be sending somebody up there to help out. I'd like to go myself, but The Chalice Well is very public and can't be left until tomorrow."

 

Giles busied himself with the other preparations that he needed, and Buffy went to tell Angel about the trip and grab a bag for herself, in case the job took longer than one night to take care of.

 

It was almost dusk by the time everything was ready, and Giles had already left for the Chalice Well. Martha packed up a bag with sandwiches for the journey, and Buffy smiled because it was nice to be fussed over. She liked the older woman; Martha and John Fletcher were Giles's housekeeper and handyman respectively, but more like friends than servants. Giles had told her that he had met the couple years ago, having had saved them from a vampire attack, and they had remained in touch ever since. The couple heard about an advertisement of his for home help, and Giles liked the idea of employing people he already knew and could trust, and that also had first hand knowledge of the kind of life that he led.

 

Buffy waited for the first wisp of darkness to cross the courtyard and allow Angel to emerge from his flat over the garage. It was the first trip he'd made since coming to England, and in fact he had hardly left the flat at all unless he was certain that the new slayers were not around.

 

How Angel had managed to squeeze his large frame into Buffy's mini was impressive but no real surprise to her, since she knew how adept vampires were at folding themselves into impossible places. What was unsettling to her was how big he seemed squashed in next to her. Somehow, she hadn't really noticed his size in the last ten days, since he had been rescued from LA. Maybe it was because he had seemed so lost, so frail in his demeanour that she couldn't help be reminded of how he had been when he returned from hell; had he been to hell again? He'd told Giles he didn't remember where he had been, that he had in fact no memory of it at all. She wasn't sure that she believed that, she had said exactly the same things herself when she returned - but she could understand why he wouldn't want to talk about it.

 

Angel was completely aware of her surreptitious scrutiny, but for now he chose to ignore it. He wasn't really looking forward to the journey to Wales, but it was a relief for him to get away from the house. The proximity of Giles and all the Slayers was not ideal for a relaxing experience, and he had done his best to keep out of everyone's way. Unfortunately, the girls themselves had shown a great deal of interest in him, though he supposed that was to be expected since he was the first vampire that some of them had ever seen. Buffy had laughed when he mentioned that, teasing him that he must be getting old if he'd forgotten what teenage girls could be like, but it was a discussion he didn't want to have and so changed the subject. In truth, he didn't want to discuss anything, really. He answered questions as best he could, but he couldn't get the recent events in LA out of his head, and just couldn't bring himself to talk about them.

 

Buffy chattered for pretty much the entire journey to Wales, and Angel thought that he should have found it irritating, but in fact it was nice to hear her cheerful voice; and since she didn't seem to expect him to answer her every time, he settled back into the cramped chair and did his best to enjoy the trip.

 

"What do you think of the slayers?" Buffy asked, and it was a moment before he realised he was meant to say something.

 

Noisy.

 

"They seem capable," he replied carefully. Something in his tone made her glance over to him.

 

"Does it bother you?" she asked curiously. When Angel looked enquiringly at her, she added, "You know - with all those slayers close by?"

 

"No," he replied quietly. "They're just girls, Buffy. They don't have the experience yet to be a danger to me, and even in my weakened state - I can look out for myself."

 

Buffy's breath caught. That was the longest speech she had heard from him in the last week, and she didn't want him to lapse back into silence.

 

"Giles said that they're having problems, but he can't find out what causing it."

 

"Problems?"

 

"Yeah… he says that they seem to attract the forces of darkness, so he doesn't like them going out much by themselves. He's trying to find out why."

 

"Maybe it works like a hellmouth," Angel suggested. "Demons are drawn to the power."

 

"Maybe," she agreed sceptically, before letting her thoughts slide. There were a lot of strange things going on lately: just after she had come to England, four of the girls had fled their bedroom in terror, before Giles realised that the disturbance was caused by a poltergeist and set out to purge it from the house. There had been other, less dramatic instances too, and Buffy allowed her thoughts to ponder on them during the remainder of the journey to Wales.

 

**

 

Nanteos turned out to be a large square Georgian building nestled in the beautiful Welsh countryside. Buffy wished that she could have seen the location in daylight, but travelling with Angel obviously made that impossible.

 

Once inside the grey building, they waited patiently in the Drawing Room for the arrival of a member of the Powell family to arrive.

 

"Do you really think it's haunted?" Buffy asked.

 

"Probably," Angel replied, distractedly. His skin practically itched with the undiluted power buzzing around the place. "Do you sense anything?"

 

"Yeah, " she replied. "Something's here, Angel."

 

Angel nodded in agreement, and the door opened to admit a smart young man of around thirty. He shook hands with them and introduced himself as Alexander Powell, before welcoming them to his home.

 

"Giles said that you’ve had your cup stolen, Mr. Powell?" Buffy asked, wincing at her own brusque tone.

 

"Alexander." Alexander corrected with a smile, apparently not in the least put out by her demoting of his holy relic. "I don't go much on formality. Come, I'll show you where we kept it."

 

Buffy and Angel followed Alexander Powell along a striking wood-panelled hallway, and up a flight of stairs. Buffy couldn't help feeling a little overwhelmed by the beautiful furnishings, and she suddenly felt very dowdy in her jeans and sweater. She cast a sideways glance at Angel, and was a little disgruntled because he seemed not in the least perturbed by his surroundings.

 

Alexander reached the end of the corridor and stopped outside the door. Or would have, if the door had actually been on its hinges. Instead, they had to step over a mass of broken and splintered wood, and it was clear that whatever had burst through the door must have had considerable force behind it. An empty glass case stood at the far side of the room, fenced off with a rope barrier.

 

"Electrified?" Angel asked, and Alexander nodded.

 

"Yes. And guarded, too. But not now," he shrugged. "There didn't seem much point in keeping either with the Grail gone."

 

"What happened?" Buffy asked.

 

"Usually, because the Grail is so precious, we keep at least two guards in here, and there are more outside. The case is electrified, and of course, the whole house is alarmed."

 

Buffy tried to hide an inappropriate snigger at the thought of an alarmed house, and Angel gave her a brief disapproving glance at her stifling of mirth. The youngest male of the Powell household carried on untroubled.

 

"It's generally accepted that the Grail is in a bank, but in fact, we occasionally keep it here - always on high security.  It is not on public display, and we bring it in for select access only."

 

Angel nodded toward the door. "Whatever caused that was big. Anybody see what it was?"

 

Alexander frowned at his use of it but said, "No. Everybody who came into contact with the… intruder is now in hospital. All are unconscious… I thought maybe they'd used some kind of nerve gas?"

 

"Maybe."

 

While he recounted his tale, both Buffy and Angel patrolled the room, seeking clues or inspiration. Buffy knelt by some reddish brown stains and caught Angel's eye. Blood?

 

He shook his head imperceptibly, and Buffy asked Alexander, "Do you know what this is?"

 

"No idea," came the reply. "I assume it's blood - it appeared this afternoon.  Somebody must have hurt themselves. I told my staff not to touch or clean anything, as Rupert asked me to do."

 

"That's Giles," Buffy said distractedly. "Always with the details."

 

Alexander opened his mouth to reply to her comment, when a woman's scream unexpectedly resounded through the house.  Without a word, they all turned toward the noise and hurried downstairs in search of the commotion.

 

In the kitchen, they found a terrified girl huddled against the wall, and a higgledy-piggledy pile of furniture heaped in front of her. The room was empty apart from the trembling girl, and Alexander picked his way round the mess to hug the girl.

 

"My fiancé, Lorraine," he explained to his guests. "What happened this time, Lu?"

 

"Came down to get some water." Lorraine was obviously upset, and her words all tumbled out in a rush. "Turned round and there it all was." The girl was cradling a bleeding arm against her stomach, and she grumbled unsteadily,  "This is freaky."

 

Alexander examined her damaged arm with a frown. "This could do with stitches," he muttered. "Can you hang on for little while so that I can show our investigators around?"

 

Before she could reply, Buffy interjected gently, "It's all right, Alexander. You take… Lorraine… to the hospital. Angel and I can find our own way around."

 

"You're sure?" Their host asked, looking visibly relieved. "Thank you." He hesitated, and then said, "Just one thing. Rupert told you the house is haunted, right?"

 

When they nodded, he heaved a sigh of relief. That would make it easier. "Normally, as long as we follow the rules, we don't have any trouble from them. But in the last twenty-four hours all kinds of odd things are happening."

 

"Odd things?" Buffy queried.

 

"Drawers opening by themselves, spirits popping up, things going missing… all that kind of thing."

 

"And then the Grail disappears," Angel mused.

 

"You think it's connected?"

 

"It's possible."

 

"What did you mean by 'follow the rules?' " Buffy wanted to know.

 

"Well, you know… there are rooms which they haunt, so we tend to avoid them." He worriedly looked again at his girlfriends' arm. "We should put something on that. I think there's some bandages in here, but… I don't know where."

 

"You don't…" Buffy started, and Alexander responded with a sheepish look. "I don't often come in here," he explained.

 

After much searching, Buffy found them in drawer in the dresser.  Alexander looked so puzzled at the contents of the first aid kit that Buffy sighed and bandaged it up herself. "Had plenty of practice," she commented.

 

Angel had surreptitiously removed himself from the group, on the pretext of putting the furniture back on the floor, and Buffy tried not to notice how much his large hands were shaking as he moved around the room.

 

When the arm was taken care of, Alexander left for the hospital, apologising again for having to abandon them. He had no qualms about leaving strangers in his house; Rupert would not have sent somebody to help him that he didn't trust.

 

"Well?" Buffy asked, and Angel raised his eyebrows questioningly. She had been about to ask if he was all right, or hungry, but decided he probably wouldn't admit it anyway, so she changed track. "What now?"

 

"No idea," he replied, and Buffy was relieved to notice that he had stopped shaking. "But I'm fairly certain that those stains upstairs are demon in origin."

 

"And whatever broke the door was huge." Buffy added. "Well then, we'd better get on with it, hadn't we?"

 

Left to their own devices, Buffy and Angel carefully explored the house, and it's 16 bedrooms, Drawing Room, and a variety of other rooms including a library and billiard room. The huge Dining Room must have been over 40 feet, but the most impressive was the beautiful music room, with its lavish décor and mirrored walls.

 

"People really live like this?" Buffy murmured in awe, and her wide-eyed expression reminded Angel very much of the young girl that he had fallen in love with back in Sunnydale.

 

"Beautiful, isn't it?" He asked gently, watching her cross over toward the ornate Italian fireplace, and spin slowly round to take in all the details.

 

"Yeah," she whispered back, flashing him such a radiant smile that he had to rapidly swallow the lump that rose unbidden in his throat. He forced himself to focus instead on the decorative ceiling that portrayed a variety of musical instruments entwined, Angel assumed, with the four seasons.

 

The house must have been largely unchanged in recent years, and had many of its original features. While Buffy found the house overwhelming, to Angel it was like being in a time warp; he had seen so many houses just like this one after he was sired, that he found the whole experience disconcerting.

 

During their exploration of the house, they found no evidence of the Grail or any demons that might have stolen it. But they did find plenty of ghosts, wandering up and down the hallways and entering rooms without opening the doors first. Most of the spirits seemed oblivious to them, carrying on as if they weren't there. But some were very obviously aware of their presence, and it was beginning to freak Buffy a little, the way that some kept looking, hollow eyes that bored right through her, and she was beginning to wish that she had brought a weapon of some kind.

 

But none tried to hurt or interfere with them, and after a while it stopped being a surprise when a Victorian child skipped straight through the wall or a man in tights ambled along the hallway.

 

So it was unexpected when, without any warning, something seemed to grab hold of Angel and throw him bodily to one side of the corridor. Buffy expected him to fight off his invisible assailant, but she had forgotten how weak he still was, and, stunned by his impact with the wall, his response was sluggish.

 

Without a seconds' thought, she had jumped to his aid, frantically scrabbling at it to get the danger away from him. Her fingers met resistance, even though she could see nothing, and she began pummelling at it fiercely until the resistance vanished and she slithered in front of him, determined to stop anything else from replacing it.

 

Nothing else happened, and she placed a hand on his shoulder. "Angel?"

 

"Sorry," he apologised, "Caught me off guard."

 

But Buffy wasn't listening, and Angel wondered what had caught her attention. He had been thrown next to a door leading into room that they hadn't yet been in. The door was locked, but the key, still in the lock, began to turn all by itself.

 

"Curiouser and curiouser," Buffy commented.

 

"Seems to me," Angel mused. "That something wants us in there."

 

A trap?

 

"Fine." Buffy shrugged, hand on the doorknob. "Let's see what's so important, then."

 

 

***

 

Chalice Well

 

The walk along the path to the well was a pleasant experience. It wasn't yet dark, and Giles appreciated the glorious colour of the herbaceous borders. Arriving at the rose covered trellis that led up to the Well itself, he paused to admire the flowers before continuing to his destination.

 

The lid stood open, and it was here that the pleasantness ended; Giles wrinkled his nose in distaste. The stench from the opening was appalling, and the glutinous green gunge that bubbled out of it was equally disgusting. Pulling a white handkerchief from his pocket and wrapping it over his nose, he leant over the well to get a better view. The Guardian had been correct, because the well was clearly infested with sinuous shapes, and he stood up, satisfied. It was as he had expected - the well had fallen victim to supernatural manifestations, but it was something he could easily clear up.

 

Preparations for the spell, and the ancient incantations took several hours, and by the time Giles had finished his recitations it was dark. He'd had to rely on artificial light to carry on, and his voice felt dry and a hoarse at the end of it. Leaning over the well again, he frowned at what he saw. The nasty viscous fluid was gone, as were the manifestations and the smell. But it was too soon; he still had to sprinkle a binding powder over it, and that should have finalised the spell. This was curious. He finished the task anyway, in order to prevent a recurrence of the trouble, and then began the process of clearing away his equipment.

 

He considered the situation all the way back home, wondering what had happened. Perhaps he had included an incorrect ingredient to the mix? He was sure it was nothing to worry about, but it was an odd happening, and he couldn't wait to get back to his study and dig out his books.

 

However, the commotion that greeted him on his arrival back, told him he wasn't going to get the opportunity for research any time soon, and he sighed in disappointment.

 

"Giles!" Several girls pounced on him as he crossed the courtyard and all began talking to him at once.

 

"Sarah's hurt…"

 

"And then we…"

 

"…we were sparring and then…"

 

"One at a time, please," he said brusquely, overwhelmed by their exuberance, but deliberately keeping his voice level. "What have you been up to?"

 

The excited girls fell silent to allow one of the older girls to tell the tale. "Sarah got hurt while we were training," Laura informed him. "Knocked herself clean out!"

 

Giles was about to ask where the injured girl was now, but it was clear from the way her contemporaries were shepherding him through the kitchen and into the Family Room, that the girl was in there.

 

Only two girls were in the room with Sarah, the others having been carefully ushered out by the ever-efficient Martha. His housekeeper was bending over the shaken, but now conscious slayer. All looked up at him expectantly when he entered the room, and he squared his shoulders and tried to look dignified. A Watchers work was never done…

 

**

 

Nanteos

 

The moment that Buffy's hand touched the doorknob, a tingle rushed up her arm and made her yelp, and she snatched her hand back.

 

"Sorry," she muttered apologetically to Angel. "Wasn't ready for that."

 

She paused for a moment to prepare herself before firmly grasping the handle again. It wasn't a painful experience as such, just unexpected; this time she was ready for the raw power that infused her body, and she gritted her teeth and determinedly pushed the door open.

 

Stepping warily into the room, Buffy and Angel looked around at the empty bedroom. The room held the highest concentration of energy that they had found anywhere in the house, making them both certain that there was something significant about it.

 

Buffy scanned the room eagerly, and was a little disappointed that the Grail wasn't just there, sitting in plain sight and waiting to be rescued. So what was it about this room? Why was the energy so strong in here? Why had they been shepherded in?

 

The room looked normal. Elegant drapes and period furnishings surrounded them, and Buffy couldn't help feeling that it was something of an anti-climax. She'd half been expecting to find the room teeming with spirits or monsters and now she felt let down.

 

Then she noticed that her partner appeared to be studying the room before making his way slowly toward the fireplace.

 

"Angel?" she asked with concern, before realising what he was doing. His face held that particular look of concentration that he had when following a scent, and Buffy fell silent. Could he smell something?

 

Angel reached the fireplace and paused. Then he began running his fingers round the brickwork before digging in his fingers and he pulled. The front of the fireplace slid out, ancient hinges grating in protest, and revealing a small recess behind it.

 

"Priests' hole," Angel declared with a tiny triumphant smile.

 

"Impressive," she grinned, coming to stand beside him. "How'd you know it was there?"

 

"I remembered the demon's scent from the Grail room, and it's very strong in here - especially by the fireplace. I know a lot of these old houses have secret hideaways in them, and it was just a case of finding it."

 

"Not just a pretty face, are you?" Buffy declared with pride. But her words didn't have the desired effect, and his face clouded over. "Angel…" she began, but he waved his hand to stop her.

 

"Later," he snapped, stepping into the small space and Buffy knew full well that he wouldn't want to discuss it later.

 

"What's a priest-hole?" she inquired instead, watching him feel round the loose brickwork, and wasn't very surprised when a section of the wall pulled out, leaving just enough room for a person to squirm through.

 

"It was a way of hiding the monks during the Reformation," Angel told her, wriggling into the darkness. "Behind fireplaces and in the attic were common places…but having an extra exit as well is unusual."

 

Buffy wriggled in behind him, half-expecting to find themselves cramped into another tiny space. But the area opened out into a dusty staircase leading downwards. She could see reasonably clearly because a light burned from down below, and that meant that somebody had been here recently.

 

"Earlier," Angel said, distracting her from her musings. "This part is earlier than Georgian; they must have built the current house round this earlier one."

 

Angel moved toward the staircase and Buffy twisted in front of him to descend first. What's with the leading bit? She wondered, feeling niggled. When did he start doing that? It's my job to go first…

 

Angel fell into step easily behind her, and they descended into the gloom of the staircase. At the bottom, the stairs opened out into a semi-circular chamber shrouded in shadows.

 

Just as they stepped into the chamber, a robed figure appeared, wispy and insubstantial, and both of them stood absolutely still, instinctively certain that if they moved at all, the figure would be gone.

 

"Who are you?" Angel asked.

 

"My name is Brother Simeon," the wisp replied sadly. "I am Keeper of the Grail."

 

"Then might I say that you made a bad job of it?" Buffy retorted, aiming her irritation at the ghostly monk.

 

The figure looked uncomfortable, and said, "For 500 hundred years I have been entrusted with it," he said sadly. "I have failed."

 

He looked so forlorn that Buffy instantly felt sorry for him. "500 years?" she exclaimed. "That's a pretty good record to keep it safe. But… I don't understand why you're here."

 

Brother Simeon sighed, and the atmosphere seemed to ripple around them. Angel said, "The power in the air is yours, isn't it?"

 

"Yes." The monk replied, and he sounded very tired. "Most of the spirits that you encountered have been stimulated by the energy I have created. But it takes a lot of… concentration to maintain this form. I do not have long. When the Grail arrived at our Abbey, it was put into my care. It soon became clear that our charge was in danger,  and I brought it here, to the house that originally stood here, for safe keeping. I had to make… certain deals to extend my life span, but when the Grail passed into the safety of the Powell family, I could rest until such time that I would be needed again."

 

"Sucks to be chosen, doesn't it?" Buffy said sympathetically.

 

The monk faded, before becoming stronger and reappearing again.

 

"How can we help you?" Angel asked.

 

The monk gave him a very long look before replying, "That is an interesting question from one such as you, vampire." He paused and Angel looked a little uncomfortable.

 

"Look," Buffy said impatiently. "No offence, but you aren't exactly solid, and my bet is that if you could get it back by yourself you would have. We can help you."

 

"You speak the truth," Brother Simeon responded. "The demon intends to sell the Grail on the Black market; I have managed to detain it within these walls, but I cannot hold him for much longer. I would be grateful for your assistance." He glanced at Angel, and added apologetically, "Both of you."

 

"That's what we're here for," Buffy grinned at him, and, his message given, the monk faded away. Angel's hand brushed against her shoulder, and she turned to see what he wanted to show her.

 

At the far side of the chamber stood a wooden table, and on that, a small object lay at rest. It looked like a sliver of wood, and Buffy started toward it with excitement. The Grail!  

 

But in here, in this strange place, her instincts were on overdrive, and she was not surprised when something moved out of the heavy shadows before she had taken no more than five steps toward it.

 

"Guess we found our demon," she said, stopping abruptly. The demon emerged further into the light and Buffy frowned, because she had been expecting something much bigger. The demon was only about a foot taller than she was, with scaly skin the colour of the stains on the upstairs carpet. The face, what she had the opportunity to see, looked pinched tight, with stiff bristles sprouting from the sides of its face.

 

The demon lunged straight at her, and Buffy instinctively retaliated with a kick to its midriff. The demon stumbled back, making an odd hiccupping sound.

 

Angel, coming up to stand beside her, noticed a swelling appear at the sides of the creatures' neck, and just as Buffy rushed forward, the swelling doubled in size, and he had a sudden flashback to the blasted door upstairs, and had a pretty good idea what was going to happen.

 

"Buffy!" he shouted in warning, but although she spun away instantly, alerted by his shout, she was unable to completely avoid the power unleashed on her by the exploding protrusions in the creature's neck. The force gathered her up, and hurled her unceremoniously at the wall, where she bounced off it and landed heavily on her knees.

 

The creature darted toward the Grail, and Angel delved into the speed of his own demon, in an attempt to reach it first. He wasn't quite close enough; the demon snatched it from the table, and raised his hand to smash it against the wall. Apparently it was a case of, 'If I can't have it, you won't, either.' Angel doubled his speed, unthinkingly slipping into his true face, and grabbed the creature from behind. He managed to pull it off-balance, before wrapping his hand round the raised arm to hold it steady. His other hand finally managed to get a purchase on the creature's neck, and he yanked backwards viciously. He felt the sickening crunch echoing in his own body, and the demon slumped down, nerveless fingers releasing their grip on the fragile cup. Angel watched the Grail tumble from his captive's fingers, and unthinkingly, reached forward to pluck it from the air.

 

 

**

 

Westbury, Giles' study

 

"So the girl will be okay then, Giles?" Buffy asked with concern.

 

"She'll be fine," Giles assured her. "It was just a training accident, apparently. But you know better than anyone how… robust slayers are…" 

 

Buffy grinned, completely recovered from her tussle with the demon. "Then it all worked out all right. You fixed the Well, and Angel and I found the cup. Not bad for one night's work!"

 

"Very true," Giles agreed tidying his desk thoughtfully. "I wonder… if it was… the real thing. The real Holy Grail?" he asked hopefully, "I suppose you didn't…"

 

"Didn't what?"

 

"Well, with your Slayer abilities," he said, too casually, turning to his bookshelf to put his reference volumes away. "I wondered if you might have… sensed something?"

 

"Didn't touch it myself, but A…"

 

Angel caught her eye, and gave a tiny shake of his head. She understood immediately, and grinned, changing track with her sentence seamlessly. "A…nyway, you gotta have some mysteries in life, haven't you? Isn't it better not to know?"

 

Giles tried not to look disappointed at the news. "Yes, that would probably be best…"

 

And he completely missed the look that passed between Angel and Buffy as they slipped quietly out of the room.

 

 

End

 

 

Fact and Fiction:

 

I changed very little about The Chalice Well, apart from adding slimy things to the water. Apologies to the real Guardians, for damaging their lovely gardens.

 

The Story of the Grail:

 

There are many legends surrounding the history and whereabouts of the Holy Grail. I have chosen this one: The wooden cup (Or Holy Grail) was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea, who settled at Glastonbury Monastery. When the monastery was dissolved in 1539, monks fled with the Holy Grail to Strata Florida Abbey in Cardiganshire, and the cup eventually found its way into Nanteos, and the hands of the Powell family.

 

My alterations:

 

The last member of the Powell family - living at Nanteos - died in 1951, the house has changed hands many times, and it is now a hotel. I have kept the house owned by the Powells, and invented Alexander. Apologies if a real Alexander Powell does exist…

 

The whereabouts of the Holy Grail - believed by many to have healing properties - are unknown, but said to be in a bank vault somewhere - and not still located in the house.

 

While priest-holes did exist in houses like these, as far as I know, there isn't one at Nanteos. Other descriptions, I believe, are accurate, and the notion of an earlier house is based on the fact that part of an earlier house can still be seen, situated in the basement of the house. The phantoms are real too, as many ghosts are said to inhabit the Georgian building.

 



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