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 Two Men On The Bummel

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Jo

Season 2

Part 5

 

**

 

Summary : Giles and Angel take a trip to round up some baby fire demons.  How hard can it be?

 

**

 

Two Men On The Bummel

 

(Or, A Man and A Vampire With Time On Their Hands)

 

 

 

 

“Saints preserve me from amateurs and bloody hocus-pocus merchants!”

 

Giles’ expostulation from the study was punctuated by the slamming down of the phone.  And then another expostulation.

 

“Damn!”

 

Buffy was lying full-length on the settee, watching ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ for the nth time, and still sniffling.  Angel had taken himself off to the kitchen, to concentrate on his new-old book of Cavalier poets.  Much to his surprise, Giles had given it to him, in a clear hint that self-flagellation, self-denial and self-disgust could only go so far before leading to self-destruction.  He was taking the hint.

 

On the second ‘damn’, they met in the hall outside the study.  Angel could hear soft ripping and rustling sounds through the solid oak door.  He slipped his arms around Buffy’s waist and pressed a kiss into her cheek.  His voice was a silky whisper.

 

“Do you think it’s safe to go in?”

 

She pulled back, and saw the boyish grin on his face.  It had been far too long since she’d seen that.

 

“I’m not worried.  I’ll just send you in first.  You’re indestructo guy, after all…”

 

She put on a winsome look to go with the innocence of her tone.  He gave a laugh, tiny and low, admittedly, but a laugh nonetheless.  She snuggled up to him, pressing him back to the wall, felt rather than heard his sharp intake of breath, and reached deftly around him to turn the door handle.  Momentarily off-balance, Angel staggered backwards into the study, his arms full of Buffy.

 

“And you two can take your necking somewhere else!”

 

There was a moment of astonished silence, and then both Buffy and Angel collapsed onto the empty chairs, helpless with laughter.  Buffy was the first one to be able to sputter a response.

 

Really bad choice of words for a vampire, Giles!”

 

The ex-Watcher, ex-Librarian stood with his hands on his hips, glowering at the intruders.

 

“Haven’t you got something better to do?”

 

“Nope.  We’ve done the Dead Turd…”

 

“Deodatus.”

 

“… demon – and that was a big disappointment, let me tell you – and the Loo Lies…”

 

“Lulie.”

 

“… was just looking for somewhere warm for the winter, so we sent her to the Abbey Hotel.  She’ll live in the basement, stay out of sight, and keep the place free of rats.  Success all round.  I was just getting comfy with tonight’s film, and Angel was cuddling round a nice rectangular thing, and then you start cussing and here we are.”

 

Apart from correcting his beloved’s recall of names, Angel had sat quietly, enjoying the sight of her twisting the older man around her little finger.  Then something caught his eye, behind Giles.  Without meaning to be silent and stealthy, but silently and stealthily all the same, he moved to the desk and picked up the telephone handset.

 

“Um…”

 

Giles whipped round, utterly surprised that Angel had moved.

 

“Did you have a battle with the bad telephone?”

 

The explanation for the ripping and rustling sounds was now clear, and Angel’s look was quizzical.  The fractured handset was clumsily sellotaped together. The fight went out of Giles, as he sank into his chair with a rueful chuckle.

 

“You heard?”

 

“Enough to know that we might have work to do.  As well as buy a new telephone, that is.”

 

The vampire looked as though he would relish some more action, and Giles, in sympathy with that feeling, threw up his hands in surrender.

 

“Yes, I lost my temper.  I don’t much regret the loss of the Watchers, other than Benny, but the loss of all the magic users has left us with a huge gap that’s being filled by half-trained idiots and total charlatans.  Some absolute oik has tried to tackle a clutch of fire demon eggs, and instead of dealing with the hatchlings, he’s just managed to break the group up.  They’re scattered across half of East Sussex now!”

 

Buffy leaned forward, her professional interest piqued.

 

“We’re going to have lots of burny things?  A new Great Fire of London?”

 

She was pleased with herself for remembering that.  Life with Angel and Giles was…educational.

 

It was Angel who shook his head.

 

“No.  The fire is just an illusion.  They’re more of a nuisance than anything else.  A bit like rats.  And like rats, they’ve got very sharp teeth and can bite through electrical cabling.  They feed on the energy, when they can’t get a real fire.”

 

He paused for a moment and cast a worried glance at Giles, who answered him after only a tiny hesitation.

 

“Shorted out cabling?  Yes, perhaps we could have another Great Fire.  Damn!”

 

Giles looked at the clock.  Angel, without a glance in that direction, beat him to it.

 

“Nine-thirty, give or take.”

 

Giles grunted.  Angel’s ability with time was irritating.

 

“It’s a good three hour run to East Sussex.  It’ll be almost two in the morning before I get there.  I imagine the entire county shuts down in about half an hour.  Damn.”

 

Angel’s voice was soothing.

 

“Do we know where to start looking?”

 

The ‘we’ didn’t go unnoticed.

 

“I am going to make a start with this idiot in Hove.”

 

Angel simply quirked an eyebrow.  Giles looked as if he wanted to abuse the telephone again.  Or maybe abuse Angel with the telephone.

 

“Oh, alright!  You two will do it better.  Fine.”

 

He shut his teeth together with a snap and stood up.  Stalking out of the room was written through every line of his deportment.  Angel turned that quirked eyebrow to Buffy.  They’d fought enough battles together.  They could read each other like a book.

 

“You know, Giles, I really think I’m just going to curl up here with my hot water bottle.  You know how cranky I get around now….  Can I just mind the shop while you two deal?”

 

Both of Angel’s eyebrows had climbed towards his hairline at this blatant untruth – not the cranky bit, he had to admit to himself, but at the timing.  He knew perfectly well when to start taking cover, and it wasn’t for a whole week yet.  Both he and Buffy could see that Giles needed this trip, needed to hit something, and he’d thought that Buffy would be the one to go with him.  He was pretty sure she’d known that he expected that.  Minx!  Giles’ expression of hope and yearning told its own story.  Angel covered his surprise smoothly.

 

“Well, if this idiot lives in Hove, there’s almost certain to be a hotel of sorts next door, in Brighton, that’s prepared to stay open until we get there.  He can come and see us tomorrow, and we can start to plan.  If we pack and set off now, Buffy can be calling hotels while we drive.”

 

And so it was decided.  By nine forty-five, they were on their way, their enthusiasm dampened only by Buffy’s parting words.

 

“Don’t forget, Giles, you’ve promised to give a talk to the Westbury Methodist Ladies’ Circle.  ‘Biblical Monsters’, or something like that.  It’s on 7 November.  You’d better be back for that, because I can’t do it.  You’d be better off sending Aristotle and Zillah than me.”

 

The thought of the two cats educating a Methodist Ladies’ Circle on anything at all made the two men chuckle.  Today was 3 November, for a couple of hours more at least.  They had three days.

 

Buffy walked back into the house, smug in her knowledge that she had manoeuvred the two men in her life into taking a much-needed break together.  A male-bonding break, she hoped, but a vacation of sorts at the very least.

 

Angel drove because, in the darkness, it was faster that way.  Giles snoozed, occasionally waking up with a start.  Once, in a sleep-befuddled voice, he asked, “Are you lost yet?”

 

Angel, the very model of patience, reassured him.

 

“A36, M27, A27, Brighton.  Got it.”

 

Angel pushed the Discovery as fast as he dared, irritated at the need to slow down for each speed camera on the way.  There was intermittent drizzly rain, so typical of the month, as weather fronts warred over this island.  November gales had stripped the deciduous trees bare all along the one hundred and thirty four miles of the journey, their naked branches seeming to search for each other under the press of the wind, trying to huddle together for comfort in the cold, dank night.

 

Within an hour, Buffy had found them a Bed and Breakfast, Arundel House, where the proprietor was already waiting up for late night revellers, and which promised bedroom curtains that were heavy enough to keep the sun off the lightest of sleepers.  Her directions only got them lost twice.

 

The proprietor turned out to be an elderly, jocular woman who might have had a glass of wine too many during her late vigil.  She showed them up to the room – the only one still vacant – and then left for her own accommodations, plunging the rest of the house into darkness behind her.  Giles gaped in horror at the sleeping arrangements.  He’d at least expected twin beds.  This was a double, and a fairly small-looking double, at that.  He shut his mouth firmly then, wrapped in as much dignity as he could muster, he stalked into the room’s one main advantage, a tiny en-suite shower and toilet.

 

“I’d better take the side nearest the window.  And you can keep your cold feet to yourself!”

 

Then the door slammed shut.  When he came back out, clad in a pair of paisley pyjamas, Angel had squeezed himself into the under-sized armchair, and was once more reading the verses of the Cavalier Poets.  Peering over his shoulder, Giles could see that the page was open at Lovelace’s ‘Song. To Amarantha, That she would dishevel her hair’.  He grimaced when he remembered the cause of all that dishevelment.  Sharing a bed with a vampire was one thing.  Sharing a bed with a horny vampire might well be another.  When Angel looked up at him, Giles could see the wicked gleam in his eyes.  Angel always knew what you were thinking.

 

“Get some sleep, Giles, I’m okay here.”

 

“No, I’m sorry, Angel.”  Giles sat down on his chosen side, the bed creaking ominously.  “I’m… I’m just grumpy.  We’re going to be busy in the morning, and you’ll probably be driving us around the entire county after sunset.  You need your sleep.”  His tone became a little sharper.  “Just don’t wake me up!”

 

As Giles settled himself onto the surprisingly comfortable mattress, Angel took a last look at the page that he had really been reading, before he decided to tease Giles.  It was still Lovelace, ‘Song. To Lucasta, Going to the Wars’.  It seemed to be the story of his life in recent years, and he drew comfort from the fact that, in some things at least, he wasn’t alone.

 

“…I could not love thee,

(Deare) so much, lov’d I not honour more.”

 

Sighing, he laid aside the book, and started to strip, casually, down to his boxers.  Hurriedly, Giles turned over to face the window, and pulled the bedding up around his ears.  His voice was a little muffled.

 

“We can make an early start in the afternoon.  There are some advantages to November.  And fire demons generally sleep during the day, anyway.”

 

“Yeah.  Sunset’s about 4.30, and we’ll have until about 7.00 in the morning.”

 

Angel climbed into the bed, careful not to cause Giles to roll towards his greater weight.

 

“Do you snore?”

 

“Do you?”

 

As it turned out, neither of them did.  And the curtains were, indeed, adequate to the job.

 

***

 

Breakfast next morning was an affair of sleight of hand, at which Angel was very good indeed, even though he was never at his best in the mornings.  He’d already drunk his meal in the privacy of the bathroom, but joined Giles in placing what seemed to be a minimal order in this establishment of big eaters – cereals and scrambled eggs on toast for Giles; orange juice, bacon, sausage and tomato for Angel; toast and marmalade for both, to satisfy the you-can’t-survive-on-such-a-tiny-breakfast glare of the owner, Mrs Kettering – and when no one was looking, Giles’ empty plates were deftly swapped for Angel’s full ones.  Angel toyed idly with his unused knife while they talked strategy, their voices low in the cramped dining room.   Their interviewee was due at two o’clock.

 

In making the booking, Buffy had managed to secure use of the TV room until four o’clock.  If Mrs Kettering thought it odd that she should be asked which direction the room faced – north, as it happened – she said nothing.  Added to the northerly aspect of the room, unremitting drizzle still hung over the seaside town, totally obscuring the sun.  The south coast climate was normally better than this – or worse, if you were a vampire – Angel reflected, as he stood gazing out of the window; better, at least, than England’s average 2 hours of sunshine a day in November.  From here, he could just see the top of the Royal Pavilion, its icing-sugar whiteness dulled by the greyness of the day.

 

He was pulled from his reverie by Mrs Kettering’s announcement that their visitor had arrived, and he moved to sit quietly in a shadowy corner.  Giles hadn’t expected that, but didn’t argue.  He did, though, resist the urge to switch on the overhead lights and dispel the gloom.

 

Matthew Davis was nervous when he came into the room.  He was tall and lanky, embarrassed by his height and desperately trying to make himself less conspicuous by hunching himself down.  He looked like a tall and gangling bird, his head pulled down between his shoulders.  And he was all angles, as if he were, like a puppy, made entirely of knees.  His brown hair fell in unkempt bangs, almost obscuring the curiously lop-sided and stubbly eyebrows that gave him an expression of permanent surprise.  Giles, ensconced in a wing chair, gestured to the young man to sit in another, on the opposite side of the coffee table.  Angel, as yet unseen, sat apart, at the third point of the triangle, weighing up truths and lies.  Matthew, as it turned out, was much too frightened to lie.

 

He’d been training with an ailing and elderly magic user.  Giles grimaced at the use of the word ‘training’.  The boy had been an apprentice for no more than six months.  Giles knew that was barely a beginning.  Then had come the call from the Coven.  His tutor had sent the boy away to keep him safe, and had given his remaining strength to help save the world.  Giles felt the sour taste of jealousy in his mouth.  He was at heart a good man, and he tried to excise from his mind the thought that, if idiots like this had not been saved, perhaps there wouldn’t have been the need for Ella to die.  He still thought it, though.

 

And so, with his mentor dead alongside the Coven, the twenty-two year old Matthew had been faced with the choices of going back home to his indifferent and scathing parents, of finding what his father would call a ‘proper job’ with nothing better than a Media Studies degree from a third-rate university, or of do-it-yourself magical training supported by the unknowing taxpayers through the Job Seeker’s Allowance.  He’d opted for the latter, for so long as his unemployment benefit would last.

 

In the few weeks that he had been at large, he had done no worse harm than to singe off his eyebrows, but three days ago, hunting for medicinal plants around the edges of a reservoir, he had come across a strange little ball of travelling flame, and had followed it to an adjacent electricity substation.  It hadn’t entered there, but had continued around the reservoir a little way, and disappeared into a crack between two large stones.  Greatly daring, he had managed to shift one of the stones sufficiently to worm his way into the small gap.  By the light of the tiny torch on his key ring he had found himself in a large, dank, stone-lined domed cavity and, in one stony crevice, he had found the nest.  There were a dozen of the little balls of flame in a shallow scoop made in the flint rubble on the floor, none of them any larger than the one he had followed, returning from its childish explorations.  They were about the size of a tennis ball, in shades of lemon and pink and blue, and were some of the prettiest things he’d ever seen, even though one of them had bitten his finger.  Fire demon eggs weren’t entirely…eggish.

 

Not knowing what he had seen, he’d gone home in a state of high excitement to search through his dead mentor’s books, and had come up with fire demons.  Pretty as they were, he’d understood the dangers of something that fed on fire or electricity.

 

His mentor, although not known to Giles, had known of Project Paranormal, and of Rupert Giles, and Matthew had worried over whether to seek help.  But, he’d desperately needed to prove to himself that he wasn’t just a waste of space, and he’d decided to deal with the nest alone.

 

At this admission, Giles’ lips thinned a little as he thought of the recklessness of the young man, but Angel, still unseen in the corner, felt a rush of sympathy and fellow-feeling.  In the boy’s place, at that age, he might have done the same.  If, that is, he hadn’t spent all his time drinking and whoring.  He could scent the shame as Matthew fell silent.  Giles’ voice was still hard.

 

“Go on.”

 

And so Matthew had ransacked his mentor’s books.  Perhaps under the influence of too much television, he’d concocted what he thought was a vanquishing spell.  Back in the dark and cold chamber, he’d carried this out in a trembling voice.  The results had been unexpected. Instead of the animated eggs disappearing, or crumbling, or dissolving into some nameless liquor, as he had thought, the nest had exploded in a storm of light, and a dozen young fire demons had whirled around him, careening off the walls, flooding the entire chamber with flickering flames.  Then, they had disappeared through the opening like a charm of rather large goldfinches.  As he scrambled out, he’d seen them scatter to the four winds.  He’d gone home, shamed and dejected, and telephoned Giles for help.

 

Giles thought of the problems they would now have dealing with a dozen fire demons in what was clearly a state of some maturity, rather than a simple nest of eggs.  That thought was still laced through with the bitterness of Ella’s death, making his words more rancorous than he intended.

 

“Of all the cockeyed things to do!  You knew that you weren’t experienced enough to do anything like this safely!  What on earth were you thinking?”

 

Angel knew that Giles was thinking of Ella, as clearly as if he’d been able to read his thoughts.  He’d seen the man’s whole body clench when Matthew mentioned the summons from the Coven.  And the boy had not done so badly.  True, he’d screwed up the spell, but he could have turned his back on his mistake, and kept quiet.  No one would ever have known what had happened.  Instead, he’d swallowed his pride and contacted Giles.  A for Effort, even if it had turned into E for Attainment.

 

He kept the timbre of his voice as soothing and gentle as the one he had used, back in the day, for calming nervous prey.

 

“I think that Matthew has castigated himself enough over this.  The thing is, what to do now?”

 

Giles’ nostrils flared as momentary anger ran through him, but he knew that Angel was right.  He closed his eyes, trying to steady himself.  Matthew, for his part, started as if he had been shot.  Turning to the sound of the voice, he saw, for the first time, the dark figure in the corner, pale face luminous in the gloom.  The boy looked as though he were having a heart attack.

 

Angel stood up smoothly, and positioned his chair closer to the coffee table.  He kept his questions easy until the other two had found their equilibrium again.

 

“We’ve got a map, I think?”

 

Giles nodded.

 

“Do you want to tell me where it is, and I’ll get it?”

 

Giles pulled himself together visibly – at least to a vampire’s senses.

 

“Over there, Angel, in the briefcase.”

 

Before Angel could stand, Matthew’s eyes, wide with terror, found his face.

 

“Angel?  The… the… v…”

 

His voice trailed away into silence.  Angel kept his own voice low and thrilling, that same dark brown voice that had held so many young men and women fatally captive when other senses had urged them to flee.

 

“That’s me.  What if we find out just where these fire demons were, and then we can see what we can do to track them?”

 

He retrieved the map and spread it out on the coffee table.

 

Giles, master of himself once more, turned the map around until he could orient himself.  Angel sat back to watch.  Matthew’s gaze was still fixed on the creature that his mentor had warned him about, the vampire known to be working with the ex-Watcher, and of whom the boy had had a completely different picture in mind.  Giles recalled him to the task in hand.

 

“Pay attention, Matthew.  Now, you found the eggs in Hove, yes?”

 

The boy had to take a deep breath before he was able to speak.

 

“No…no.  By Islingword Road Reservoir, here in Brighton.”

 

He leaned over, hesitated for a moment, and then pointed to a spot of blue on the map.

 

“Here.”

 

Giles traced round the edge of the reservoir, until he found the tiny symbol showing the electricity substation.  Matthew showed him the position of the underground chamber, as best he could.  Angel leaned forward, suddenly, his expression intent.

 

“There used to be an ice house up there, as I recall.”

 

“Ice house?”

 

“Yes, Giles.  A below-ground chamber to keep ice in throughout the year for the pleasure of the rich and famous.  I think this must be one that partially survives, at least.”

 

Giles looked up at him, curious.

 

“You know Brighton, then?”

 

Angel looked a little wistful.

 

“Darla and I enjoyed some visits here.  Prinny was known to be a very … convivial… host, you know.  For a while, spending the summer in Brighton was very popular among people of quality.  De rigueur, almost.  It was quite the place to be.”

 

They both stopped talking when they remembered Matthew’s presence.  It was something that seemed to happen to Matthew, often.  Most of the time, no one noticed him, or remembered his presence.  It was as if he were such a nonentity that he was invisible.  He’d hoped they would forget all about him, so that he could listen to confidences he’d never expected to hear – after all, who in Brighton would not recognise the reference to Prinny, the Prince Regent, the future George IV, the man responsible for the Royal Pavilion, and the scandalous entertainments that had taken place there?  Here was some one who had actually seen it, been part of it.  Matthew’s thirst for knowledge was insatiable.   He saw that they were both looking at him, and realising that such confidences were at an end, he asked the question that had plagued him since finding the clutch of eggs.

 

“But why would a fire demon lay eggs in such a cold, dark place?”

 

It was Giles who answered.

 

“It’s to stop the eggs from incinerating themselves.  The parents don’t care for the young at all, and until they’re hatched they can’t regulate their temperature.  Somewhere like an old icehouse does that perfectly.  They won’t look for warmth until they’ve consumed all their yolk sac.  Of course, they might have done that already,” he added, morosely.  “Are you sure you can’t remember what you did wrong?”

 

Matthew shook his head in misery.  Angel sat back.

 

“If they’re largely airborne, I won’t be able to follow them.  Any ideas, Giles?”

 

Now, it was Giles’ turn to shake his head.

 

“Beg your pardon, but I could try scrying for them if you like…”

 

Matthew trailed off, uncomfortable under the weight of their combined stare.  He pulled from his pocket a short, stubby crystal of transparent quartz on a black leather thong.  Giles pushed the map over to him, and the boy took a deep breath and started to concentrate.

 

He tried.  He really tried.  No one could say that he hadn’t.  But, he’d only just started learning to scry when he’d lost his mentor, and these two just made him so nervous.  He knew they were trying to put him at ease, but the old man had told him such terrible things…  You needed to be centred, relaxed to successfully scry, and he was a million miles from being that.  He dropped the crystal onto the map with a sigh.

 

“I’m sorry…”

 

Giles smiled, a thin little thing, but he understood why the boy had failed.

 

“I don’t suppose you number scrying as one of your talents, Angel?”

 

“No, sorry, Giles.  If I could do any of that stuff, I wouldn’t have needed to keep Dru around for so long…”

 

Matthew held his breath, hoping for more, but once again, the confidences stopped.

 

It was at that point that the briefcase rang.  Or rather, the phone in it did.  Neither man seemed inclined to answer it and eventually it was Angel who lost in the new technology avoidance stakes.  Sighing, he got up.  He mouthed to Giles that it was Buffy.  His brow furrowed in concentration.

 

“What sort of funky?”

 

“When?”

 

“Got a number?”

 

“Tell him…”  Angel paused for a second, scanning the lowering sky.  “… an hour.”

 

He turned his back and the rest of the short conversation became inaudible.  As he turned to face the others, he closed up the phone.

 

“Sounds like we’ve found one of them.  It’s locked into the Alfriston Clergy House.  It’s about fifteen miles from here.”

 

Giles’ brow creased in the effort of memory.

 

“Alfriston Clergy House…?”

 

“Um… It’s a National Trust house – their very first one.  It’s very pretty.”

 

Both men looked at Matthew.

 

“I… I’d like to go with you.”

 

“No!”

 

“NO!”

 

“Please?”

 

“No!”  “NO!”

 

****

In the deepening shadows of the gloaming, the Discovery pulled up by the side of the reservoir, close to the electricity substation.  Giles had decided to check out the nest first, to make sure that none of the hatchlings had gone back there, and they had set out as soon as Angel could safely get to the car.  They wanted to make the most of the hours of darkness, and the half hour or so of dusk was time they could use.

 

Despite his size, Angel managed to slither through the small gap into the underground chamber.  Giles couldn’t imagine how he’d done it – could only be grateful that it hadn’t been left to him to struggle through – and was forcibly reminded that the vampire was as flexile as a cat.  Sourly, he thought that it was like the cat’s whiskers: get his hair through, and the rest of him would follow.  Matthew simply gaped in awe from the back seat.

 

Angel stayed in the icehouse for almost no time at all.  Apart from the normal underground denizens of beetles, earwigs, earthworms and the like, it was completely deserted.  Giles, watching him slither effortlessly back up, was suddenly distracted by a hiss from behind him.  When he turned round, Matthew was pointing towards the sub-station.  There, fastened to one of the overhead cables, was a flickering ball of blue flame.  It was expanding rapidly, rather like a puffer fish.  Giles gestured wildly to Angel through the windscreen, pointing up to the cables running over the mass of industrial art that nowadays represented transformers and all those other things that he couldn’t put a name to.  Angel grimaced when he saw where the demon was, and how quickly it was growing.  He walked over to the open window.

 

“Guess it’s going to be my turn again?”

 

Giles looked dubious.

 

“It’s very dangerous, Angel, even for you.  You would need to make sure that you never ground yourself.  It’s a maze – are you positive you can do it?  I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.”

 

“Well, birds manage to perch on those overhead cables, so I should be okay.”

 

“Just don’t touch anything else, then.  Nothing at all.  I’d never hear the end of it if I took you back in a paper bag.”

 

Angel smiled a little wryly, and strode over to the steel fencing.  Giles heard a sharp intake of breath from Matthew as they watched their companion leap lightly to the top and balance on one of the uprights.  Then the sharp intake of breath came from both of them as Angel leapt for the cables, seemingly an impossible height away.  Giles knew that vampires couldn’t actually fly, but watching his friend in the last of that day’s light, as he gracefully crossed the space between the fence and the cables, Giles could see exactly how the myth of flight had come into being.  If cats could fly, this is how they would do it.

 

Friend.  Giles had thought it, and now that he’d thought it he saw that it was true, as Angel reached for the cable.  His right hand caught it deftly, then his left, and he was dangling a yard behind the feeding demon.  He was also only a foot or two away from a pylon.  One touch, and he would be dust.  Incinerated dust, at that.  Giles felt his fingernails dig into the meat of his palm.  It was too dangerous, and he should not have permitted it, not for a single fire demon.  And then Angel’s body swung forward, and his hand shot out and buried itself in the blue flames.

 

The demon wasn’t coming without a struggle.  It hung on to the cable as Angel yanked at it, his feet swinging nearer and nearer to the metal pylon.  Giles scrambled from the car, crying out a warning, although he couldn’t hope to do anything useful, and whether Angel heard him was a matter of doubt.  And then the demon was free, the power cable snapped in two, both ends dropping like hissing, writhing, sparking serpents.  The vampire, still clutching the bundle of flames, plummeted downwards, twisting his body frantically in midair to get away from the danger beneath.

 

At arm’s length, he managed to catch hold of the upper edge of a small building made of concrete blocks, slamming against the side of the building in response to laws of motion that were immutable even for vampires.  The severed cable crackled and hissed beneath him.  He was hanging on with only his left hand, the fire demon still firmly captive in the other.  Giles started to pray as he saw Angel’s fingers slip a little, and he imagined the bloody trails as the rough concrete tore skin from flesh.  He felt Matthew’s hand tighten around his arm, the boy’s face white in the gloom.

 

“He’s going to die, isn’t he, and it will be all my fault.”

 

To his own surprise, Giles’ voice was bracing.

 

“Nonsense!”  To Angel, he shouted, “Angel!  Let the bloody demon go!”

 

Angel wasted none of his strength on trying to reply.  Those watching saw his arm and shoulder muscles bulge, even through the thickness of his leather jacket, as he applied all the leverage that he could, and then he let go.  He flew upwards, and rolled onto the roof.  Then, balancing on the balls of his feet, he made one last mighty leap that brought him high over the fencing to land on the other side of the track way, rolling head over heels into the bushes.

 

Giles and Matthew, running over to him, heard his yell.

 

“Ow!  Dammit!  GET OFF!”

 

He’d lost his grip slightly on the bundle of flame, which was now wrapped around his wrist.  As Giles reached the cursing vampire, he saw that the fire demon had sunk its teeth into the soft flesh between thumb and forefinger, and was hanging on like grim death.  Angel’s other hand gripped the nape of the creature’s neck, refusing to let it go.  Giles helped him to his feet, and tried to disentangle the beast, but only succeeded in making matters worse.  Losing its grip on Angel’s arm, the demon was now swinging from its locked teeth, and a small rivulet of blood ran down Angel’s thumb.

 

“Let me…”

 

Matthew put his left hand out, and grasped the demon firmly behind the head.  Then, with his right hand, he felt for the articulation point of the jaws, and squeezed.  It took a lot of pressure before the jaws hinged open.  Angel snatched his hand away and Matthew was left holding the creature by the scruff, rather like a bad-tempered kitten.  Giles ran back to the car and, after rummaging around in the boot, came back with a large glass jar with a stout wire mesh screw top, and Matthew lowered the creature into that.

 

Angel looked questioningly at the boy who, uncomfortable with the attention, hunched his head a little further down.

 

“I, erm, I used to have a couple of pet rats.  If you upset them, they’d hang on like that, and it’s the only way to make them open their jaws, otherwise it makes a real mess.”

 

Angel saw that there were a number of small, white, crescent-shaped scars around Matthew’s knuckles and the boy, aware of the scrutiny, thrust his hands into his pockets.

 

“Aren’t you… won’t you kill it?”

 

Angel turned his attention to the angry fire demon cub, scrabbling at the sheer walls of its prison.

 

“Slicing and dicing in battle isn’t the same as putting something down in cold blood.  You want to do it?”

 

He made to hand over a sharp, black-handled knife, but Matthew shook his head and took a step backwards.  Angel put the knife away.

 

“Thank you.  You did well, there.”

 

Matthew glowed with pleasure at this unaccustomed praise, even from a vampire.  Giles held out the first aid kit.  Angel spread his fingers, and the others could see that the wound was already knitting together.

 

“It’s fine. Thanks.”

 

Giles stowed the box away, and then climbed back into the car.

 

“Come along then, we’re due in Alfriston in half an hour.  Angel, dial 999 and tell the fire service there’s a power line down.  Matthew, you can hold the jar.”

 

****

 

It was full dark when they reached the pretty little village of Alfriston.  Under Angel’s instructions, Giles headed for the church and, through the dark and wind-stripped trees surrounding the churchyard, they could see, next to it on the Tye, the ancient black and white thatched cottage known as the Clergy House.  A yellow light flickered fitfully in the tiny panes of glass that made up the windows.  A man stood on the path to meet them.  He looked doubtfully at each of them and then asked, “Mr Giles?”

 

Giles stepped forward and shook hands with the man.

 

“Thank you for coming so promptly.  My name’s Elwiss, John Elwiss.  I look after the Clergy House.  Did your associate, Miss Summers, tell you…”

 

He pushed his fingers through his thinning hair, a worried frown on his face.

 

“Why don’t you tell us, Mr Elwiss?  It’s better to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak,” Giles said, soothingly.

 

Elwiss gave a weak smile, and then gave them the story.  The Clergy House, which had been built around 1350 – by a yeoman farmer, strangely enough, rather than the Church – was not noted as a haunted house, despite its long existence.  There had never been trouble with ghosts or apparitions, or anything like that.  Yesterday, though, one of the visitors had been poking around in a hearth, and something had flown up at the man and settled in the rafters of the hall.  At closing time, Elwiss had tried to dislodge it, and been bitten for his pains.  He showed them a hefty piece of sticking plaster on his index finger.  Unable to understand what it was that might bite, and yet looked capable of burning down the oak-framed wattle and daub building, he had started making calls to those who might not laugh at him.  A friend of a friend of a friend had given him the telephone number of Project Paranormal.

 

Fortunately, the House wasn’t open to the public on Fridays, and so the creature had remained locked inside.  They walked as they talked, and when they reached the garden gate, they could see that the flickering light was beating against the windows, like a moth seeking entrance to the greater light.

 

Giles handed a torch to Matthew.

 

“Keep the torch shining on that window.”  He pointed to one furthest from the door.  “Mr Elwiss, shall we go in, then?”

 

Elwiss unlocked the door while Matthew distracted the demon, and Giles, Elwiss and Angel slipped into the House.  The small noises of their entry brought the demon from the window, but not quickly enough – Angel shut the door in its face.  It was smaller than the one from the electricity sub-station, and lemon in colour.  Vibrating a little – in anger, Giles supposed – it settled back into the ceiling.  Elwiss switched on the lights.

 

They were standing in a medieval hall.  That is, the room occupied the whole two-storey space from floor to rafters.  The beams were decorated with oak-leaf carvings, and the floor was of rammed chalk.  Elwiss looked anxiously at Angel, who was wrinkling his nose a little.

 

“Is something wrong…?”

 

He faltered.  Angel hadn’t been introduced.

 

“There’s a strange smell in here.  Cheesy – is something off?”

 

Elwiss’s eyes opened wide.

 

“Are you psychic?”

 

Angel glanced at Giles.  There was something here, and he wasn’t sure what the right answer might be.  He prevaricated a little.

 

“Occasionally it feels like it…”

 

“I think you’re smelling the floor as it once was.  It’s rammed chalk, but it was bound and sealed with sour milk.  They did that in this part of the Weald.  You can really smell it?”

 

He seemed wistful.  Angel would have changed places with him.  Sour milk was not an attractive smell for a vampire.  Meanwhile, Giles had been sizing up the situation.  They weren’t going to capture the demon without using Angel’s more athletic abilities.

 

“Mr Elwiss, would you like to wait for us outside, with Matthew?”

 

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that.  I’m responsible for this property, for making sure it doesn’t get damaged.”

 

Nothing would move him.  Giles tried to walk Elwiss to a corner of the hall, but the man was transfixed at the sight of the ball of flame sitting on the rafters.  Angel shrugged at Giles.  Better get on with it, then.  Crouching momentarily for maximum muscle power, Angel jumped for the rafters.  He took the demon as neatly as a hawk takes a pigeon, and it was only as he did so that he saw a small pink ball hiding further back among the beams.

 

Elwiss looked as if he was catching flies, his mouth open in amazement.  Giles put his hand on the man’s shoulder and whispered confidentially to him.

 

“Very old circus family, you know.  Simply amazing what they can do.  Invaluable in our line of work… It’s something in the boots, I understand, but he’ll never say…”

 

He kept his face absolutely straight in defiance of Angel’s quizzical look, and produced a suitably sized jar from his bag.

 

“There’s another one hiding up there, Giles.  I don’t know whether I can grab it, but I’ll try.”

 

Another leap upwards, and Angel was hanging by one hand from a beam, batting at something in one corner.  At last, the fuzzy pink ball loosened its hold on the woodwork, and whizzed around the room, cannoning into walls and furniture as it did so.  Both Giles and Elwiss grabbed ineffectually at it as it sped around them.  On one pass, Giles stumbled back against the hearth, clattering into the fire-irons.  He picked up the shovel and took a stance that, even with this under-sized implement, spoke of cricket matches and rogue bowlers. 

 

As the pink ball hurtled towards him, he yelled, “To you, Angel!”  A two-handed sweep of the shovel, and Angel dropped from the ceiling, plucking the demon out of midair with both hands, and rolling to a halt on the floor.

 

“Ow!  Dammit!  GET OFF!”

 

“Show-off!”

 

***

 

They were back in the car.  Elwiss had thought the fee for clearing the Clergy House of ‘vermin’ was very reasonable indeed.  Buffy would bill him, and he, on behalf of the National Trust, would pay.  According to Buffy, there had been no more reported sightings, and they were trying to decide what to do next.

 

“Do we have a list of all the electricity stations around here – we could go and look at those?”

 

“No, Angel, but even if we did, these things could be attached to any power cable, not just those at sub-stations.”

 

There was a busy silence.

 

“I suppose we could contact the fire brigade to see whether there have been any odd reports or false alarms?”

 

“Hmm.  Would they tell us?  And by the way, Giles, I think they call themselves the fire and rescue service in this century.”

 

“Hmph!”

 

“Um… Mr Giles?  Angel, sir?  You say they like fires best?”

 

It was Giles who answered, looking curiously at the diffident boy.

 

“Yes, a good roaring fire is their natural habitat – electricity is a substitute.”

 

“Well, erm, tomorrow – it’s Saturday, you see.”

 

Giles wore an honestly puzzled expression.

 

“Yes, I know it’s Saturday.  What about it?”

 

“Um.  Saturday the 5th.  It’s Bonfire Night.”

 

The prospect of hunting through the entire county, or worse, as the nation celebrated 5th November, appalled both Giles and Angel, and they sat silent for a moment, imagining the bonfires, large and small, that would be lit in gardens, parks and on wasteland.  Everywhere.  They would be absolutely everywhere.

 

“Um…”

 

Angel’s voice was gentle, encouraging.

 

“Yes, Matthew?  You’ve got an idea?”

 

“Um… Well, we’ve got Lewes.  It’s only a few miles from here.  The demons couldn’t miss it.”

 

“Lewes?”

 

Giles smiled mysteriously.

 

“Have you never heard of Lewes’ Bonfire Night, Angel?  You’re in for a treat.”

 

***

 

Against all his protestations, they dropped Matthew off in Hove, close to home.  As they drove back towards Arundel House, Giles suddenly turned to his companion.

 

“What do you say Angel?  Let’s go down the pub.”

 

Twenty minutes later, and a short taxi ride away from their lodgings, they were ensconced in The Watersplash, and it was heaving.  It wasn’t a pub; it wasn’t even a real ale pub.  It was more an exhibition of real ale.  The huge polished wooden bar ran in a circle through the saloon and the public bar, the only difference between those two drinking rooms being that the saloon had more seats and the beer cost more.  The top of the bar displayed a thickly-forested palisade of shiny, black, old-fashioned hand-pull beer pumps.  There were dozens of them, all different, all real ale, served from proper casks.  Old Speckled Hen, Hobgoblin, Ruddles County, Old Peculier, Bombardier, Newcastle Brown, Bishop’s Finger…  The name plates went on and on.  Angel looked with amusement at Giles, who was positively salivating at the prospect.

 

They managed to find a tiny table tucked into a niche by a window, out of the main press of drinkers.  The beer, Ruddles, had been pulled into thick, old-fashioned dimpled pint glasses, the rich, foamy heads spilling over and running down the curved handles.  They clinked the glasses together gently, and each took a satisfying swallow. 

 

They’d had three pints when Angel held up his mug, and watched the light sparkle in the depths of the rich brown beer.  Greene King’s Abbot Ale, this time.  His mouth twisted into a small smile.

 

“Effulgent…”

 

“That it is, Angel; that it is.”

 

Giles tore his gaze away from the effulgent ale and focused hard on Angel’s expression.

 

“What is it?”

 

Angel pulled himself back from the memory.  What could it hurt, now, to speak of it?

 

“It was a word Spike… Will… used in one of his poems.  Everyone gave him a really hard time about it. Including me.”

 

His gaze locked with Giles’ for just a second, but then he looked away.  Giles didn’t, though.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

He didn’t mean poetry or effulgent.

 

“No.  Not yet.  Sometime, maybe.”

 

There were things that Angel could never, would never, tell anyone, but he’d learned from the last few years.  One of the things that he’d learned was that if you lock your friends out often enough and long enough, eventually they’ll take the hint and go knocking on a more open door.  Sometimes, you needed to give a little of yourself, to make them feel that you cared.  To feel that you trusted them enough to know things.

 

Giles pushed at the door again, and found that it creaked open a little.

 

“How are you, now?  You know, the henbane…  Has it all gone?  I don’t like to ask too much when Buffy’s there…”

 

“It’s almost gone.”

 

“You still have after-effects?”

 

Giles took a deep swallow of his beer to hide his embarrassment.  This was his fault.  He’d taken a dreadful situation and, all unwittingly, made it so much worse for Angel.  With Angel’s reply, the door creaked a little more.

 

“You know that Ella left me with a gift?”

 

“No… no I didn’t.”

 

The hope that sprang up in Giles’ face was painful to see.  Angel knew that the man wished desperately that Ella might, in some way, have conquered death.  Might some day come back to him.  They both knew that wasn’t going to happen, but the heart sometimes, no matter how briefly, beats the head into submission.  That was why Angel had never mentioned this to him.  Now, for some reason, it seemed right to do so.

 

“She was a generous and compassionate woman, Giles.  She did the very best that she could for me on that… that terrible night.  She knew what I had to do, and she did something to me, to help me later.  She gave me comfort.  Whether it was my heart, or my mind, or my soul, I really don’t know, but… afterwards… when I was alone, whatever she did saved my life.  She gave me a place inside myself, where there was comfort, and love and friendship.  At first, when the horror and the henbane were at their worst, I dug myself into an old barrow.  I thought I might never come out again, but what she’d put into me kept me from total despair.  My body was in that barrow, but my mind, my soul, they were in that place that she’d given me, while the rest of it raged through me.

 

“It was like a drowning man clutching at a rock, but it was enough of a rock to stop me from going under completely.  I’ll never stop being grateful to her for that.  And it’s still here.  Only when I’m alone, and only when the black despair is at its worst, but then I can find it.  I’ve still got to learn to live with the rest, and the best repayment I can give her is to do just that.”

 

This was a long speech for Angel, and he seemed to be making it almost to himself.  Giles kept silent, afraid that if he made a sound or a movement, Angel would draw back into his fortress.  The vampire took a deep breath, though, and raised his eyes to Giles’.

 

“The last of the henbane still gives me dreams, nightmares, visions.  Buffy knows about it.  But it isn’t often now - every few days at most.  You did what you thought best, Giles.  You weren’t to know.  I could get it out of my system more quickly, but the only way to do that wouldn’t be acceptable to any of us.”

 

He took a long, slow drink as Giles thought about what he’d just said.

 

“Fresh human blood?”

 

“Yes, Giles.  Hot and fresh and living, and lots of it.  It would sweep this stuff right out of me.  But I’m not doing that, so it’ll have to go at its own pace.  And besides, I’m a bit afraid that what Ella did will go when the last of the poison goes.”

 

Giles looked him squarely in the eye.

 

“No.  It won’t.  We’re always here for you, now.  Just get that through your thick Irish skull.”  He looked around.  “Do you think they have a dartboard in here?”

 

***

 

They didn’t have a dartboard, but they had shove-halfpenny.  After the sixth pint – the smooth bite of Newcastle Brown – Giles was the man.  He’d defeated all comers, the reward for which was the privilege of standing all the players a round.  After the seventh pint of the lethally strong beer, perfuming the warm and fuggy air with the nourishing scents of hops and malt, they were both drunk as lords.  After nine pints, they were, in the vernacular, pretty well legless.  To be fair, the beer itself didn’t have much effect on Angel, but he knew that it was possible to get drunk on water, in the right company.  Here, tonight, this was the right company, and so he went right along with Giles.

 

For safety’s sake, to cut down on the number of unsteady trips to the bar, they’d carried a couple of pints each back to their tiny table, and were now smiling blissfully at the joyous uproar around them.  On this Friday night, it seemed, everyone was a happy drunk.

 

“Angel…”  Giles was making a tremendous effort not to slur his words, but he’d long ago lost all feeling in his upper lip.  “…what was it like in Hell?”

 

Even that couldn’t penetrate the fog of bonhomie that swathed around the vampire.  He smiled and nodded sagely.

 

“You don’t want to know.”

 

Giles gave a magisterial wave of his hand that almost sent the spare drinks flying.

 

“Quite understood, old man… Quite…  Well, what about you and Darla and Prinny, here in Brighton?”

 

Angel crinkled his brow with effort.

 

“Well, it wasn’t as bad as Hell, but…”

 

They laughed until they were crying and their sides hurt.

 

“So, what was it like, then, with Darla?”

 

The two leaned together over the beer-sodden table.  From a greater distance than six inches, it was impossible to differentiate the separate sounds of speech above the maximum volume of babble in the room, but for any who cared to look, it was clear from Giles’ wide-eyed expression that a really good tale was being told.  Once, Giles patted down his pockets, but failed to find a piece of paper.  With exaggerated care, he peeled a beer mat into two halves, but then failed to find a pen.

 

With even more exaggerated care, he turned to the man standing behind him, and tugged on his sleeve.  The man bent down to him, almost losing his balance in the act, and Giles made his request known by the simple expedient of bellowing in the proffered ear, with as much politeness as bellowing permits.  He only had to repeat himself twice before that man, too, started to pat himself down.  The search was unsuccessful, and the message was passed around the laughing and joking group.  Eventually, one of the women produced a tiny pencil that lived in the spine of her pocket diary.

 

Giles started to write.  It took a lot of concentration, and several more beer mats.  Angel sat back to give him time and space to catch up.  The pencil’s owner, no doubt anxious to keep an eye on her property, together with the rest of her group, gathered around the table, reading.  Much, much later, when they found the beer mats in Giles’ jacket pocket, and deciphered them, both Giles and Angel would thank their lucky stars that not one of that inebriated group would remember a single word, and even if they did, replication would be a physical impossibility for humans.  They hoped.  Giles refused to hand the beer mats over to Angel, though, muttering something about ‘leverage’, although he smiled when he said it.  It looked like a smile, anyway.

 

***

 

They got up late the next morning and missed breakfast.  Mrs Kettering, who had taken rather a shine to her two guests, offered to make them a brunch, but they settled for coffee.  She went off, huffing, and plotting how to make sure they wrapped themselves around some food.  She believed that boys never stopped growing.  Matthew was downstairs, waiting for them.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

Giles was abrupt.  He didn’t mean to be, but every sound set his teeth on edge, as well as starting up a jackhammer in his temporal lobe.

 

“I, um, I thought I’d come to Lewes with you.”

 

“No!”

 

Giles winced at Angel’s forceful tone.  There were clear advantages to being a vampire, and he’d wondered whether, if Angel turned him now, it would clear the hangover, or leave him in its grip for eternity.  He was almost prepared to take the chance.

 

“You deal with this, Angel.  I’m just going round the corner to the chemist…”

 

Matthew pulled something from his pocket, and held it up.  It was a small vial containing a clear turquoise-coloured liquid.

 

“Um… This was one of the first things I learned to make.  Master Hugh had some hard-drinking friends.”

 

Angel took the vial and eyed it suspiciously.

 

“What makes you think Giles wants this?”

 

The boy looked even more miserable.

 

“I saw you come back last night…”

 

Angel had a very clear recollection, and shuddered a little.  Giles had no recollection at all, and shuddered rather more.  Then the import of Matthew’s information hit him.

 

“You were watching us?  Following us?”

 

“All this is my fault, and it’s my responsibility to see it gets cleaned up.”

 

Angel tossed the vial in the air and caught it.

 

“What’s in this?”

 

“A bit of this, a bit of that, and a lot of codeine.  It goes into coffee.”

 

Angel caught the vial in midair again, and then, cruelly, tossed it to Giles, who almost fumbled the catch.

 

It took two cups of coffee with the added extras before Giles was restored, and after that, breakfast – or rather lunch – started to look very attractive indeed.  Rather gruffly, Giles thanked Matthew.  The effect was spoiled though, when he added, “But you still aren’t coming to Lewes with us!”

 

***

 

They arrived in Lewes just before 5 o’clock, stuck in so much traffic that the eight miles had taken almost an hour, to find that the roads into town were closed.  So, they left the car on the Brighton Road and walked the rest of the way, Angel carrying the satchel that contained the tools of today’s trade – collecting jars and fire demon nets.  Already, there was a holiday atmosphere in the thronged little town.  Banners stretched across and between buildings, declaring Bonfire Night, and, as they passed the castle and entered the central part of the town, they found small knots of street vendors and large crowds of bystanders.  Tens of thousands of people must have converged on Lewes, and all seemed to be in a state of heightened expectation.  They were forced to push their way past the Law Courts and found themselves in sight of the War Memorial.

 

“Look.  Programme sellers.”

 

They were men in distinctive knitted guernseys.  Giles dug into his pocket and fetched out a five-pound note.  He gestured to the programme sellers, and gave the note to Matthew.  A few minutes later, they had their heads bent over the booklet whilst Angel watched, an indulgent smile on his face.

 

“My goodness – there are thirty-one different processions!”

 

“What time does it start?”  Giles looked at his watch.  “Oh. Half past five!  It...it’s almost time!  And it lasts until midnight.”

 

“It says they have effigies and tableaux stuffed with fireworks.  Oh, I remember now.  A couple of years ago, they had Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson…”

 

Matthew gurgled with laughter at the recollection, and Giles gave a sudden guffaw.  Angel merely shook his head.  Politics had always been another country to him.  Still, come to think of it, when he was alive, the politics that had eaten into his people like a canker had been the politics of another country, so perhaps it was all the same in the end.

 

The bonfires themselves, with their attendant fireworks displays, started about nine o’clock, and there were five separate locations, one for each of the Lewes Bonfire Societies.  Privately, Angel thought that those would be the best places to attract the fire demons, but he had reckoned without Lewes.

 

They pushed their way through the crowds thronging the narrow, hilly streets, picking up hamburgers and soft drinks for Matthew and Giles, until they had a good view of the War Memorial, where the crowds seemed thickest, without being trapped by the press of people.  Between bites of his hamburger, Giles consulted the programme.

 

“Oh.  Each Society in turn lays a wreath at the War Memorial to remember the war dead.”

 

Angel looked puzzled.

 

“That’s what this is all about?  I thought you said it was older than that?”

 

Giles sighed patiently, and Matthew looked attentive.

 

“It probably started in 1606…”

 

“Oh, no wonder I don’t remember it.  Before my time, you know…”

 

“Angel!”

 

Giles looked warningly until he saw the laughter creasing Angel’s eyes.  It was an uncommon enough sight to make him smile.

 

“…with the first anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot.  That was just a bonfire, and it probably rattled on with just that for a few decades.  But, in 1679, after Titus Oates accused the Catholics of a Papist plot to kill Charles II, they started a procession carrying banners, and effigies, which they then burned, of Camillo Borghese, Pope Paul V at the time of the Gunpowder Plot.  Somehow the burning of 17 Protestant martyrs in Lewes High Street in the reign of Bloody Mary got bundled in… Then there was the landing of WilliamandMary…” He grinned at that elision.  “… on November 5th, come to restore the Protestant Monarchy, and it’s just gone on from there.  Seems these Sussex folk never give up either a grudge or a celebration.”

 

“This is a sectarian thing?  Protestants thumbing their noses at Catholics?”

 

It was Matthew who answered Angel’s question.

 

“Oh, no, anybody can join in, if they’re from Lewes.  And there are some other Sussex Bonfire Societies that get invited.  It’s really Lewes people – Sussex people – thumbing their noses at foreign interventions.  They generally view anybody from outside Sussex as being foreign, and town authorities pretty well get honorary foreign status.  There’s a big history of people versus authority regarding Bonfire Night.  They’ve tried to stop it loads of times, and always had to back down.”

 

Giles couldn’t help but chuckle, shaking his head genially, and Angel joined in.

 

Angel took the programme from Giles and looked at the map.

 

“If all the Societies lay a wreath here, then the processions are all going to pass here.  Looks like a good place to stand.”

 

As he said it, a cheer went up from somewhere a few streets away.

 

“I’ll be back in a minute…”

 

Giles watched him slip down an entryway in the middle of a row of shops.  Surreptitiously, so as not to draw attention, he looked up.  Sure enough, a few moments later, there was a dark silhouette on the roof.  Then the shadow was gone and Angel was back.

 

“They’ve got races going on down near the river.  They’re pulling something that’s on fire.”

 

Giles leafed through the programme.

 

“Lighted tar barrels.  They have races pulling lighted tar barrels mounted on wheels.  Apparently in the 1800’s, they just rolled them down the hills…”

 

“Burn much down, did they?”

 

“Apparently so.  Angel, I’m surprised you’ve never heard of this.  I mean, you’ve been around a bit.  This must have been the sort of place you’d come hunting…”

 

Angel was silent for a moment and Giles, uncertain of how the question in his head had actually come out aloud, worried that he’d taken this new ease between them too far.  There was so much he wanted to know…  It was his besetting sin, and he was aware of that, but he really hadn’t intended to ask.

 

Angel, though, was not offended.  That had surprised him, until he realised that part of coming to terms with himself was simply that – coming to terms with himself.  And he’d been surprised that he didn’t know about an event like this.  He’d have loved it.  The promised spectacle, the extra pleasures…

 

It was Darla, he told Giles.  Matthew, almost forgotten, listened raptly.  Darla hated 5th November and the burning guys, and would never allow them to be in England at that time of the year.  Once, when they had missed their ship to France, they had found a house to lie low in, but she had been in a rare tantrum.  It was before Drusilla and Spike, and they were alone.  She’d taken her anger out on him, and he’d made sure they never missed the ship again.  It was just the fire, he thought.  There was nothing deeper, just the fear of the fire.  Strange, because she feared so little else.

 

Then a cry went up from the crowd as the first procession came into view, and Angel thought that maybe the fire demons were already here.

 

They couldn’t have guessed it beforehand but that night their senses were assaulted by a cavalcade of hissing, spitting, living light.  It seemed that every one of the townspeople must be here, taking part in the festivities.  Almost everyone carried fire.  Men and women paraded in sumptuous costumes.  Effigies were carried shoulder high, usually of the tormented Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirator, the enthroned Pope.  There were phalanxes of masked men in horizontally-striped smuggler’s jerseys, white trousers, and knitted caps: the Bonfire Boys, carrying the seventeen fiery crosses to mark the deaths of the seventeen Lewes Martyrs.  There were mock archbishops in full regalia, and clergy of all ranks.  Wheeled tableaux, in the guise of this year’s favourite targets, were apparently stuffed full of fireworks to be let off at the bonfire sites.  And, flanking each and every yard of the processions, men and women carried flaming torches, crackling and sizzling and spitting out gobbets of burning tar.  From time to time, each slow procession would stop entirely, and ignite their set piece street fireworks, lighting the sky with sheets and stars of glittering, coloured fire.

 

It was a parade of heat and light and fire and noise, flavoured with the acrid scents of wood smoke and gunpowder.  Behind each procession, men wheeled great barrows of fire as they picked up discarded torches that had been too hot to carry safely, or that had almost burned out.  Once, a splash of fiery liquid had caught Angel’s hand.  Only the fact that Matthew had immediately smothered the incipient flames, wielding the damp bread of his hot dog bun with aplomb, had prevented serious injury.  Or worse.  The stuff clung to the vampire like Greek fire.  After that, Angel had retired to the safety of the rooftops for a while.  From up there, he could see the streets and squares of the town transformed into rivers and lakes of fire.  It would have taken his breath away.  That was how it felt.  It was nothing short of amazing.  He couldn’t understand how they would ever find a few fire demons here.  His night-adapted sight was almost blinded by the dazzling brilliance, and he was sure that the other two couldn’t do much better.  Just at the moment, though, he didn’t care about fire demons.  He simply wanted to enjoy a spectacle that must almost rival the forbidden sun.

 

He came back down to ground just as the Commercial Square Bonfire Society came abreast of Giles and Matthew.  From every direction came the crack and bang of fireworks, rook-scarers used by each procession.  Bonfire Boys, their smuggler’s jerseys black and gold in this Society, their caps red, flanked the man carrying that Society’s insignia, an Indian head, in a war bonnet, on a black metal shield, backed by the ubiquitous flaming torches.  The First Pioneers, those who led their Society’s procession, were dressed in full Indian regalia, magnificent in their embroidered leathers, fur and shell adornments, and feathered headdresses.  Behind them came their banners and effigies, then the members of their Society: men dressed as redcoats and women in their crinolines; their mock clergy; their Bonfire Boys carrying the seventeen burning crosses, all bounded by those lines of torch carriers, close enough to touch, close enough for the bystanders to feel the searing heat of their passage.

 

And then came their tableau.  Every Society so far had really pulled the stops out with these, but this one caught the trio’s attention.  Eight Bonfire Boys, four to each rope, were pulling a car that glittered darkly in the firelight.  The inside of the car was packed with fireworks around a pair of effigy figures in the front seats.

 

Matthew pointed to the effigies and fell into a fit of the giggles.  Giles’ crack of laughter was spontaneous and unforced as he saw the lumpish but highly recognisable features of the Spitting Image-type figures of the Prime Minister and his wife.  Angel only had eyes for the car.  It was black.  It was shiny.  It might be a few years old now, but it was a Porsche Carrera, for pity’s sake.  And they were going to burn it?  Explode it?  He couldn’t just let that go.

 

He thought of the chatty and knowledgeable street vendor who had supplied hot dogs for Matthew and Giles, in between processions.  Where would he be now?  Too distracted to remember the other two, he climbed up to his vantage point on a four-storey building.  Ah, there he was, two streets away.

 

Angel offered a sop by first buying fresh supplies of food and drink for his companions, and then he asked his questions.  The vendor may have been a little tipsy, or he may simply have been a gossip, but he was happy to share.  The owner of the car had found his wife and another man in flagrante delicto in that very car.  He’d dealt with his wife, now he was dealing with the car.

 

Angel delivered his purchases to Giles and Matthew, and it was fully a quarter of an hour later before they realised that he was missing.  Giles studied the rooftops carefully, but he wasn’t there – on this night of light, it was always possible to pick out that darker shadow.  Matthew had unfurled his normally hunched posture, using his greater height to scan the crowds around them.

 

“Don’t bother, Matthew.  If he doesn’t want to be seen, he won’t be seen.”

 

“But how are we to find him?  We can’t follow him if we don’t know where he’s gone?”

 

“Oh, I don’t think we need to follow him.  I think we just need to follow that car.”

 

They followed it up to the Landport Recreation Ground, where the bonfire was roaring, a wall of heat keeping spectators at a distance better than the marshals could, and the fireworks display lit up the sky in glittering rainbow patterns.  It didn’t take long at all to see the tall, dark figure in animated discussion with one of the Bonfire Boys who had pulled the car, surrounded by the other seven.  The man that Angel was talking to gave a clear chopping motion with his hand, his body language utterly clear.  No.  No more talk.  Angel’s body language radiated disconsolation, as the band of men took up the ropes and started to pull the car closer to the enormous bonfire, in preparation for this centrepiece display. 

 

What happened next was never entirely clear to anyone.  A particularly dazzling set of fireworks flew up almost from the heart of the bonfire, and a rain of coloured fire in lemon and blue and pink, surrounding a much larger green ball of light, fell onto the car and into its open windows.  The fireworks-packed car lit up with sheets of flame.

 

Desperate to save themselves from the explosion that must follow, the Bonfire Boys seemed to trip over themselves, and the thick rope, almost as if it had a will of its own, became tangled around their legs.  As they struggled, becoming more enmeshed in the rough coils, marshals converged on the site with fire extinguishers.  Angel got to the car first.  To the horror of everyone, Giles and Matthew included, he leaned into the car and stuck his fist into the rainbow of flame.  The marshals shouted warnings as they ran, but he paid no heed.  As he backed away, the green fire came with him, wrapped around his arm.  The smaller balls, the lemon and pink and blue, followed, trailing behind the larger one like bows on the tail of a kite.

 

Marshalls tried to stop them, but Giles and Matthew pushed past them, running towards Angel.  The men with fire extinguishers were looking on with understandable confusion, and the Bonfire Boys were finally extricating themselves from the ropes.  The car stood in relative darkness, with no sign of flame inside.  Giles understood why.  There had been no fire, only fire demons.  Angel had the large, green, football-sized adult by the throat.  Its claws were buried deep into his forearm, and its teeth into his hand.  The nine younger ones, much larger than their captive siblings and well fed on this Bonfire Night, circled around making small mewing calls of distress.

 

As surreptitiously as humanly possible under the bemused gaze of thousands of people, Giles and Matthew netted the youngsters into the collecting jars.  The man they had seen in argument with Angel finally shrugged off the rope, and his fears, and walked over to them.

 

“What’s going on here?”

 

Giles glanced over at Angel, saw the sinews in his neck taut with the effort of the stand-off with the demon, saw the blood drip from his wrist.

 

“Let’s just say that Bonfire Night has attracted some of the more unusual wildlife around here.  Once we get that big one away, there won’t be a problem.”

 

“I don’t understand any of this, but without your friend, that car would have blown up, and we would have gone with it.  He saved our lives.”

 

You could lie by saying nothing.  Giles knew that.  The car was never a danger.  He thought of everything that Angel had suffered.  Everything he had lost.  Sometimes, even a soul as strong as his needed chocolate.

 

“Right place at the right time, I suppose, but he was quick, wasn’t he?  He really likes that car, you know.”

 

***

 

In the confusion, they’d left the Commercial Square Bonfire site with the demon still wrapped around Angel’s arm.  As soon as they found somewhere away from the press of people, Angel’s mask dropped.

 

“Help me get this damn thing off, will you!”

 

They did, but there wasn’t a big enough jar to put it in.  Giles pulled off his belt and wrapped it around the vaguely humanoid form within the ball of flame.  The demon sputtered in indignation.

 

“Let me go!  I’ll… I’ll tear yez into tiny shreds…  I’ll stomp on yer ashes…  I’ll… I’ll give yez such a nuttin’…”

 

“You’ll shut up or I’ll see what a stake will do to you.  What are you doing here with these youngsters?”

 

The demon hissed at him, but Giles held his ground.

 

“They’re my young ’uns – where does tha think I’d be?  And where’re the other three, yer scraggly long-legged strips of nowt?”

 

“Yours?  I thought fire demons abandoned their eggs…”

 

“That’s all you know, then!  Abandon ’em? Just because both their fathers allus runs off… Just let me get to yez…”

 

It hissed again, and writhed against the hold of the belt.

 

“Where’re my other three, I said?  I’ll slice yer balls off if yez don’t tell me…”

 

“Don’t worry.  They’re safe. Now, why don’t we all start again?  Who are you?”

 

The demon bristled for a moment, then gave in.

 

“I’m Stan.”

 

Stan?”

 

“Yeah!  Yez wants to make summat of it?”

 

***

 

Giles refused to release any of them, yet.  The demon, Stan, sat morosely surveying the satchel that held his captive children.  Occasionally he strained at the belt that bound him.

 

“You can’t keep destroying power cables.  We won’t let you.”

 

Stan just shrugged.

 

“Look, there are lots of volcanoes in Iceland – the island of Surtsey, for example, or perhaps Heimaey, although that’s got an important fishing port on it, so Surtsey would be better… I’m sure we could find an open vent for you.”

 

“I hates this dimension…  It’s allus cold.  There’s never any real fire, not like tonight.”

 

Momentarily stumped, Giles tried to find another solution.  Angel spoke into the silence.

 

“I might know somewhere.  There’s a dimension where parts of it are just fire.  Flame running like water; trees and rocks and streams completely limned in fire; parts that are an inferno; other places where everything just drips fire in every colour of the spectrum.  If we could get you there, would you go?”

 

Giles looked at him in mute enquiry, but Angel refused to meet his eye.

 

Stan, too, looked up at him, hope flushing a rosy pink through his green flame.

 

“It sounds just like home.  Me and the other two, we got pulled through a portal years ago when we were only babbies.  I ain’t seen it in so long…  Yez thinks yer could?”

 

Angel’s voice was firm.

 

“We’ll try.”

 

***

 

They dropped Matthew off in Hove again, much to his disappointment, and returned to Arundel House for the last time.  Stan remained in the car, but Angel carried the satchel with the captive youngsters up to their room.  They had an agreement, but they hadn’t learned to trust each other yet.

 

Even showering before they went to bed couldn’t completely remove the smells of smoke and fireworks and bonfires.  Having ripped the scab off some of his inner store of horrors, Angel didn’t sleep much.  He found, though, that it all hurt a little less than the last time he’d looked this memory in the face. 

 

Giles, too, found himself faking sleep more than experiencing it.  He was almost certain he knew which dimension Angel had described: the one that he’d been consigned to for centuries, in order to close Acathla’s portal.  Perhaps now the ice had been broken, Angel might be prepared to share.  To unburden himself a little.  He’d never do it to Buffy – it would hurt her too much to know what she had sent him to – but he might tell Giles.

 

The next morning, by common consent, their smoke-saturated clothing from the night before was bundled into the satchel with the miserable prisoners.  After breakfast, they retired to the TV lounge, waiting only for sunset before they returned to Westbury.  Each had things they wanted to discuss with the other, but neither knew quite where to start, and so there was an uneasy silence in the room when Mrs Kettering bustled in.  She had a lumpy envelope in her hand, a padded Jiffy bag.  She faltered for a moment, realising that although she knew Mr Giles’ name, she had never actually heard his companion’s.  She held the envelope out towards Angel.

 

“This just came for you.  The man said you would know what it was.  He didn’t wait.”

 

She withdrew reluctantly, obviously curious about the envelope’s contents, but she went unsatisfied.  When she’d gone, Angel tore open the packet and tipped the contents into his hand.  Car keys.  He looked into the envelope again, and pulled out an official-looking sheet of paper.  The registration document.  It was for a black Porsche Carrera. 

 

They went to the door together, and saw the sleek black car parked just across the road.  Angel longingly considered the dank, smoggy, post-Bonfire morning, but it had to be Giles who took the keys and went to investigate.  The car had been thoroughly valeted, smelling of nothing but cleanliness and leather and polish.  There was a note on the seat.  When Angel opened it, it simply read ‘Enjoy’.

 

Back in the TV lounge, they found that Mrs Kettering had left a tray of tea for them.  Over the second cup, Angel managed to put aside his astonishment.

 

“How did he know where to find us?”

 

Giles simply smirked.  Promising himself to pursue this further, Angel dragged his mind back to the things he needed to raise with Giles.

 

“Did you notice anything strange about Matthew?”

 

“Well, he was a bit of an odd character, but I suppose all of us are, in one way or another.  He was likeable enough.”

 

Angel tried another tack.

 

“How about what happened at the bonfire?  Don’t you think that was strange?”

 

Giles considered this, but couldn’t see what his companion was driving at.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Even allowing that we’d found the right bonfire – a one in five chance – why would the fire demons leave a roaring fire like that and all of them come into a cold car?  And what about the way the Bonfire Boys got tangled in those ropes?  There was no reason at all for that to happen.”

 

“You’ve got a theory?”

 

“Think back to the time we’ve spent with Matthew.  We’ve told him that he couldn’t come with us, and yet he did.  We’ve – I’ve – talked about things I had no intention of talking about.  I don’t mind you knowing, but I would never have talked about Darla, or Dru, or that demon hell, or anything else from my past, in front of a comparative stranger like him.  I think he has hidden talents.  I think he can… manipulate… things.  I don’t believe he knows that he’s doing it, so that makes him quite dangerous, although I’m sure he has a good heart.  I think he needs a proper teacher.”

 

“Angel, that’s not something any of us can do, and certainly not me.  He needs someone who can help him with the magic, not a dabbler, which is all I am.”

 

“You’re better than a dabbler, Giles, but you’re right.  He needs someone of power.”

 

“But we haven’t found anyone who fits the bill.  Magic users are damned thin on the ground now.”

 

Giles’ heartache was etched into his face, so Angel was gentle.

 

“I know.  And I think I know the very person to do this.”

 

When he named the person he had in mind, Giles’ opinion was clearly and forcefully expressed.  It didn’t change Angel’s view, though.  So, they agreed to differ for the moment, and talked about ways of finding a passage to that particular demon dimension for Stan and his brood.  They came up a blank, but Angel had his own ideas about that, too.  He didn’t mention them, because he rather thought he knew what Giles would say. 

 

So, they fell back onto the safer ground, for now, of what Giles was going to talk about to the Methodist Ladies’ Circle.  Biblical monsters, indeed.  After half an hour, they asked Mrs Kettering if she had a Bible to hand – King James’ version, please – and settled down to serious business.  Satyrs, cockatrices, unicorns, dragons, basilisks, demons and devils, leviathan and phoenix.  They talked about them all.  Could ‘demons’ be a mistranslation of the desert hyenas?  Was it really a screech owl in Isaiah 34:14, or were other translations of Lilith, or the lamia, more accurate?  Why did Psalm 74 speak of God breaking the heads of leviathans, yet Psalm 104 tell of God making the leviathan to play in the sea?  On and on they talked, as the sun westered behind the concealing smoky mist.

 

Then it was time to settle their account with Mrs Kettering, and head back to Westbury.  The fate of the fire demons might still be unresolved, but it would be a priority for Giles, when he got back to his research resources.  Angel kept his own counsel, for now.  Stan, perhaps preferring the company of another demon, opted to ride with Angel.  Angel, knowing that, for now, the Porsche had been added to Giles’ insurance, ignored Stan’s plea to ‘heat it up a bit’, as he ignored the little demon’s requests for more information about how they might be restored to what he was now convinced was his own dimension.

 

Buffy was pleased to see them all, and thought the young fire demons ‘cute’.  Judging by the pink flush to his coloration, Stan found her cute, too.  And she was very, very taken with the car, especially since she could see the excitement in Angel’s face when he showed it to her.

 

When Giles woke up the next morning, Monday, he couldn’t speak.  Angel, under instructions to examine the glands in Giles’ neck, found them lumpy and swollen.  There was no chance of him getting his voice back by that evening.  There were arguments, conducted on one side with gestures and in silence, and those went on for half the day.  In the end, though, the Methodist Ladies’ Circle got their speaker on ‘Biblical Monsters’.  It may possibly have been the first time ever that one monster had addressed a church social group about other monsters, as a vampire talked from Giles’ notes and from his own learning, bringing a three-hundred-year-old understanding to the matter, with a Slayer and an ex-Watcher sitting proudly in the audience.  The ladies thought it was one of the most interesting talks they’d ever had, even those who heard hardly a word.

 

***

 

Afterword

 

They’d invited Matthew down to Westbury.  Giles, still far from convinced, but with nothing better to offer, did the talking.  Matthew thought they’d run mad, but eventually began to believe.

 

“You realise that, until we ask, we can make no promises?”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

The boy’s Adam’s apple was bobbing in his throat as excitement, and the prospect of adventure, gripped him.

 

“Very well.  We’ll try tonight.  We might not even gain entry, you understand?”

 

“Yes, sir.  But I’m grateful that you would even try…”

 

***

 

They’d all come, Giles, and Buffy and Angel; Matthew; and Stan and his children.  They hadn’t been able to find the other two adult fire demons yet.  Only Angel and Matthew walked up the hill, though, passing by the Cerne Abbas Giant and standing under the clear moonlight in the little enclosure known as the Trendle.  Angel called to her.

 

“My Lady!  Can you hear me?”

 

He had no idea whether he would be received, whether access was at all possible without Ella’s magic to open the doorway, or even whether the Queen could hear him.  Then, he and the boy were surrounded by a thick mist, and the Trendle was gone.  The last time this had happened, he had found himself in the Autumn Land of the King, while Buffy had gone to the Queen’s Summer Country.  Now, he and Matthew were surrounded by the ladies of the Queen’s Court.  The Queen sat on a mound of cushions, nursing a red-haired infant.  Angel looked around.  There were far fewer women here than he had expected.

 

“Yes, vampire.  My Court, and the King’s, are both much depleted.  We gave what was needed to the witches, but the price was heavy.”

 

“You have my thanks, Lady, but we would all have been dead, otherwise, including you and the King.”

 

“What an ungracious demon.”  She looked up from the infant, a half smile on her face.  “And yet you are right.  Have you come here to help us replenish the faery folk?”

 

“You know I have not.  I have come looking for…help.”

 

He didn’t like to use the word ‘favour’.

 

“Tell me.”

 

“I think that Matthew, here, has the power of magic.  He needs a teacher, and we cannot find one.”

 

“And so you come to me?”

 

“Ella told me once that all witches have faery blood in them.”

 

“That is… almost true.  Is that all you have come to ask?”

 

“I have some fire demons.  Can you help us get them back to Acathla’s dimension?”

 

She tapped her finger against her pursed lips, considering.  She had made promises to Ella before the witch’s death; promises to help rebuild the Earth’s population of magic users; promises to care for the future of this demon and his lover; promises that she would keep because they were in her own interests, too, but there was no need yet to let the vampire know about these.  That would be a position of strength for her in her dealings with him.

 

“What are you prepared to pay, for this… help?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

Her laughter was silvery, and full of bright malice, he thought; nevertheless, it sent a thrill of pleasure through his demon.  Ruthlessly, he squashed that down and waited for her response.  He hoped it wouldn’t be fatal.

 

“Here is my price.  When my King is no longer young and strong and virile – and that will be many years hence – you will come for a season, and take his place.  The place that you won, and walked away from.  There will be no negotiation about this.”

 

He considered her demand.  In the time span that the Queen referred to, he might be dust, he might be human, or he might still be stalking the Earth.  If he still lived, Buffy would not.  Faeries measured time in greater spans than humans.  He might need a respite from Earth, when Buffy was dead.

 

“Not while Buffy lives, but afterwards?  Perhaps.”

 

“Good enough.  You may leave the boy here.  I shall tell you when to fetch him back.  Bring the fire demons to the place you call the Trendle.  The walls are thinner now between us and the demon dimensions.  They will grow stronger with time but, for now, I can reach through.”

 

“Can you find the other two, Stan’s husbands?”

 

Her brow clouded with anger.

 

“I am not your lackey!  No, I will not!”

 

The infant cried a little and reached out for her.  She soothed it with soft humming noises.  When she looked up at Angel again, the anger was gone.

 

“I will not spend my time doing this for you.  But, if you can find the other two before the walls thicken, I will send them through.”

 

He nodded.  It was the best he was going to get.  He turned to Matthew.

 

“Are you sure you want to stay here?”

 

“Oh, yes.  Thank you… Angel.”

 

Matthew stuck out his hand, and Angel shook it, solemnly. Then he turned, strode back into the mist, and was gone to his own reality.  For now.

 

The End

October 2005

 

 

Author’s Notes

 

I must apologise – I’m getting as bad with Author’s Notes here as I am in my longer stories.  I just like to share.  Forgive me?

 

1        Bummel

 

Remember Jerome K Jerome’s ‘Three Men in A Boat’?  (If you don’t, you should go and read it, right now).  What you may not know is that he also wrote a book called ‘Three Men on the Bummel’.  So, what is a bummel? To have it straight from the horse's mouth, he explains it as follows: "A 'Bummel'," I explained, "I should describe as a journey, long or short, without an end; the only thing regulating it being the necessity of getting back within a given time to the point from which one started. Sometimes it is through busy streets, and sometimes through the fields and lanes; sometimes we can be spared for a few hours, and sometimes for a few days. But long or short, but here or there, our thoughts are ever on the running of the sand. We nod and smile to many as we pass; with some we stop and talk awhile; and with a few we walk a little way. We have been much interested, and often a little tired. But on the whole we have had a pleasant time, and are sorry when 'tis over."

 

Information included from Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bummel

 

2        Cavalier Poets

 

A very good selection of work from the Cavalier Poets, including the poems mentioned here, can be found at: http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/cavalier.htm

 

It has collections of works from other periods, too.  It really is a lovely site – go visit. 

 

3        Royal Pavilion, Brighton

 

Here’s a good picture of the outside: 

 

http://tourism.brighton.co.uk/history/bodypage.asp?subheading=The+Royal+Pavilion&url=history&lang=English&mainheading=6

 

And here are some good views of the interior:

 

http://www.royalpavilion.org.uk/

 

You will immediately detect that The Prince Regent was noted for his restrained taste in décor.  Don’t you agree?

 

4        Fire demons

 

For UK readers, think of the current nPower advertisements, take the cute little yellow and blue energy thingummies, give them teeth like giant rats, and a lot of attitude.  That’s a fire demon.  For people outside the UK, I think you can get the idea.

 

5        Islingword Road Reservoir and the Ice House

 

In Britain the practice of storing ice in specially constructed chambers was started in the 17th century and continued up to the early 20th century. At first ice was collected exclusively from local ponds and lakes and was placed in the private Ice Houses of large estates where, if properly insulated, it would last the year through. These Ice Houses were usually built partly or wholly below ground, typically with a cylindrical pit of about 3 metres in diameter and 6 metres deep with a domed top. An entrance passage, horizontal or with steps leading down was often used for access and occasionally a loading shaft through the top. Materials used were usually brick but other local materials such as clunch, sandstone and flint rubble were also used.

 

In 1962, when an electricity substation was being erected close to the Islingword Road Reservoir, a structure was discovered and from drawings prepared at that time, this appears to have been a large Ice House.

 

I can’t actually find a map detailed enough to show whether the reservoir is still there (not without actually going and spending money on an Ordnance Survey map, that is) but since it existed in 1962, I’m assuming it is.  If anyone knows differently, please tell me.

 

6        Prince Regent, George IV

 

We’re talking about the end of the 18th century into the 19th century.  The Prince of Wales was appointed Prince Regent, during the period of madness suffered by his father, George III.  He spent a lot of money, had some very disreputable friends, and had a fairly ruinous lifestyle.

 

7        Alfriston Clergy House

 

This is a lovely property owned by the National Trust, and you can see a picture here:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-alfristonclergyhouse

 

Oddly, I can find very little about the look of the interior – the following is the best I’ve got, and so I’ve made the rest up.  Again, if anyone knows better, please let me know.  It’s from:

http://www.touruk.co.uk/houses/houseesuss_alfr.htm

The house is situated on the green of this Sussex village and is one of very few surviving 14th century Wealden hall houses.  It was built in around 1350 and has a central hall rising to the rafters, flanked by two-storey blocks on either side.  One block contained the family's private accommodation and the other the service quarters.  The hall has beams decorated with oak-leaf carvings and a rammed chalk floor.  This was local to Sussex and consisted of lumps of chalk, laid and sealed with sour milk.

 

To give you some context, here are pictures of the village of Alfriston.  It looks as if butter wouldn’t melt, doesn’t it?  Apparently, though, it was big with smugglers in centuries gone by…

http://www.alfriston-village.co.uk/photos/index.html

 

8        Bonfire Night

 

On 5th November 1605, Guy Fawkes was found with a large stack of barrels of gunpowder underneath the Houses of Parliament.  There had been a conspiracy to blow the place up with the King and Parliament inside it, and Guido Fawkes was the one chosen to do the deed.  Much as one might sympathise with him in modern times, it was not generally well-regarded then, especially as Guido was a foreigner.  Since that time, there has been a tradition of bonfires, and burning guys, and bonfire toffee and baked potatoes and fireworks.  The bonfire can be a big public display or a much smaller affair in a back garden.  The real Guido met a particularly nasty end.

 

9        The Watersplash

 

This is based on a real pub, up on the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire border.  That one was called The Waggon and Horses, and I used to go there, in my youth.  The description is pretty accurate so far as I can remember.  It was a long time ago, right?  The Watersplash was another old haunt, but much more sedate.  The name seemed better for Brighton, though…  If you’ve never had real ale, you do not know what you are missing.  All of the ones mentioned are available as bottle-conditioned guest beers.  Try them, but not too many at once.  You have been warned.

 

10      Shove halfpenny.

 

Now that the halfpenny is no more (finishing up as a tiny washer that stuck in the seams of your purse, rather than the proper sized coin that it used to be), it probably should be shove tenpence, but the name has stuck.  This is a very old board game.  There is a board marked up with horizontal lines, and you score points by shoving a coin with your hand from the edge of the board.  The winner is the one who manages to get three coins in the same bed.  Honestly.  The more you drink, the more fun it is, and the more comprehensible the rules…

 

11      Lewes Bonfire Night

 

Lewes Bonfire Night compares to Bonfire Night everywhere else as, for example, a Jumbo Jet compares to a child’s model aeroplane.  These Lewes people really know how to party.  You can get lots of information and some stunning pictures from: http://www.lewesbonfirecouncil.org.uk/

 

One year, they did, indeed, have effigies of Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson stuffed with fireworks…

 

12      There seem to be an unconscionable number of items of clothing named after parts of the British Isles.  The Channel Islands have made their mark here.  I think everyone knows that a jersey is a sweater (named after the largest of the Channel Islands).  A guernsey is named for another important island in that group, and is a thick, originally fisherman’s, sweater made especially from oiled dark blue wool.  The Channel Islands are, I believe, the last of the territories belonging to William of Normandy, before he became William the Conqueror and no, France cannot have them back.

 

13      Greek Fire

 

One of the most feared weapons of the ancient world, we have no record of exactly what this substance was.  The Byzantines used it primarily against ships, by pumping a stream of burning fluid from a brass tube.  It apparently could not be doused by water.  It may have been a mixture of sulphur, quicklime and liquid petroleum.  Nasty stuff, with the properties of napalm.   Don’t try it at home.  There’s more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_fire

 

14      Iceland

 

It’s definitely a land of ice and fire.  And not a lot of people.  Here are pictures of volcanic eruptions on Heimaey, and of the volcanic island of Surtsey.

 

http://volcano.und.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/europe_west_asia/heimaey/heimaey.html

 

http://volcano.und.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/europe_west_asia/surtsey.html

 

15      Biblical monsters

 

Don’t believe you get all those in the Bible?  Would I lie to you?  King James’ Version at all times:

 

Satyrs :                  Isaiah 13:21

Fiery serpents:         Numbers 21:6

Cockatrices:            Jeremiah 8:17

Unicorns:                Isaiah 34:7

Dragons:                 Malachi 1:3 et al

Leviathan:               Psalms 74 and 104

Basilisk:                  Isaiah 14:29 et al

Phoenix:                  Job 29:18

 

16      The Queen

 

We previously met the Queen in ‘Rut’ and in ‘Slayer’.



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