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Slay Bells Ring

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Becks

Season 2

Part 7

 

**

Summary: Buffy’s Christmas is disturbed by a legendary creature.

Disclaimer: None of this is owned by me, Buffy is owned by Joss Whedon, etc etc.

 

**

 

Slay Bells Ring

 

~

 

Buffy Summers stood framed against the darkening skyline. The last fingers of sunlight set off a deep golden glow from her hair, as the shadow crept up upon the old house. Looking out upon the English countryside, she watched the vast dark shadows of Celoso and Windsor moving beyond the kitchen window, cropping the long grass, little more than silhouettes against the sunset.

 

A sudden rustling noise drew her attention from the window, and she turned to see Giles coming in, loaded with shopping bags. The slayer watched him unpacking sweets and crisps, and raised an eyebrow.

 

“Hungry, Giles?”

 

Giles smiled eagerly as he pushed his glasses up his nose. “No, these are for the children.”

 

“Children? There are children?”

 

“Ah, yes. I’ve organized a party for the local St Mary’s.” At her blank stare, he explained, “The orphanage, Buffy. These are for the children.”

 

“The orphanage? Giles, why didn’t you tell me this?”

 

“I’ve hardly been seeing you of late, Buffy,” Giles replied calmly, carefully arranging nibbles in to a glass bowl. “It’s a nice gesture, at any rate.”

 

Buffy sceptically eyed the mountain of food. “If these kids had a Christmas dinner like we did, they so won’t be needing all that.”

 

Giles pointedly ignored her, checking the large wall clock instead, over which was draped a generous portion of tinsel. “Ah, it’s nearly five. The children will be here soon.”

 

“What are they going to do? There’s nothing here for little kids.”

 

“You’ll find that children are quite good at amusing themselves, and Martha will be here too to help keep them in order. They shouldn’t be any trouble.”

 

Buffy muttered, “That’s what you think.”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

The old doorbell clanged through the house. “That will be the children,” Giles beamed, and hurried off to get the door. Buffy heard it opening and the screaming of excited children; with a sigh, she absent-mindedly reached out and popped a sweet in to her mouth.

 

“Giles means well you know.”

 

Buffy just managed to keep herself from jumping in alarm. She looked up in to the vampire’s face with another sigh. “Are you going to be sneaking up on the kids like that?”

 

Angel ignored her, too. “They’re orphans Buffy, and it’s Christmas. They won’t be here long. Maybe you should give yourself a break.”

 

“This is a place of paranormal investigation! Not a schoolyard!

 

Angel resisted a small smile. “They’re just children with nowhere to go. Giles is right, they won’t be any trouble. It might even be fun having them here.”

 

*

 

Timmy was lost.

 

Playing hide and seek with a few friends, he had become separated from them, and was now trying to find his way around a wing of Mr Giles’ large house. To a small child, the ajar doors, concealed in darkness, did nothing to detract from the potential fun to be found in this new place. Exploring happily, Timmy toddled in to one of the rooms.

 

There was a large bed in this room, and a lamp and a few other meaningless pieces of furniture. The little sandy-haired boy ducked under the bed and pulled out something large and flat, made of stained wood, and covered in strange letters. Timmy thought it was a board game and he poked it happily, shaking it, moving it around in every way his small mind could think of.

 

“Timothy?”

 

Mr Giles was coming down the corridor outside. Timmy paused for a moment, listening. It didn’t occur to him to hide; it hadn’t occurred to him that he might have done something wrong, and as the Englishman came in the boy’s face broke in to a toothy grin of greeting. Mr Giles bent down to him.

 

“There you are! Did you wander away from your –“

 

He froze. Staring over the little boy’s shoulder, he watched as the Planchette on the Ouija board swung slowly from letter to letter. Timmy was not touching it; nothing was touching it. The little boy turned around to look too, and started to laugh. Giles quickly caught hold of his shoulders and spoke firmly; he was angry, but he tried not to let it show.

 

“Did you touch the board, Timothy?”

 

The little boy grinned again. “Yeah! Fun game!”

 

“That is not a game. You should never play with that! It is extremely dangerous.”

 

“Giles?”

 

Giles turned his head slightly as Angel appeared, treading silently in to the doorway. He ushered Timmy out of the way and pointed silently at the board, which was still swinging. “He was playing with that.”

 

“He was playing with what?” Buffy joined Angel in the doorway, squeezing past him to stand next to Giles. Angel pretended not to notice as their bodies briefly brushed together.

 

“This,” Giles explained, pointing to the board. “It’s a Ouija board.”

 

“Like a calling card for the dead.”

 

Giles sighed. “If you wish to put it like that; yes. But the Ouija board is an extremely dangerous phenomenon, and shouldn’t be used without the presence of a trained medium. The board, when used, acts like a sort of portal between our world and that of the dead. Meaning that spirits can freely enter our dimension while the board connects our world and theirs. Unfortunately not all spirits are good. There have been many cases of a Ouija board releasing malevolent spirits, and even demons in to our world.”

 

“So… did any nasties come out of this one?”

 

“I’m not sure.”

 

The Planchette on the board had stopped moving, but as they stood, a breeze blew across the room; the curtains flapped and Timmy began to cry, plucking at Giles’ sleeve. As dangerous as the board was, he couldn’t have understood what he was doing, and while Giles hastened to slide the board out of sight, Angel knelt down to speak kindly to the little boy.

 

“Come on, let’s get you back to the other children. We’ll get you a cake and some toys, okay?”

 

Timmy nodded, and toddled off hand-in-hand with the tall vampire.

 

“Giles?” Buffy asked uncertainly.

 

“I think we’re all right, Buffy. I do hope so; I was hoping to take you to see a pantomime later.”

 

Buffy blinked. “A whatomime?”

 

“Erm, theatre,” Giles said vaguely. “I’ve booked us in for Snow White.”

 

“That sounds….great.”

 

Giles completely missed her sarcasm. “I thought so. I suppose I had better return to the children, before they entirely ruin my kitchen.”

 

He set off back down the corridor, and after a moment Buffy followed him. Nobody saw the shadow pass over the house and carry on flying down towards the village.

 

*

 

Angel shifted uncomfortably as the seven dwarfs pirouetted about on stage in a manner that did not represent traditional dwarves in any shape or form. Buffy, sitting beside him, was struggling to suppress a massive giggle. Giles was the only one who appeared to be appreciating the performance, but then Angel suspected that he was more interested in Snow White than he was the dwarves.

 

The song finished and the small theatre rang to the gold rafters with applause. Maybe it was this that masked the noise, even to Angel’s sensitive ears. Or maybe he was just more focused on the pantomime than he had thought; either way, it was another two or three minutes before he heard the sound.

 

Angel slowly turned his head and craned up at the ceiling. Nobody else seemed to have heard anything, and the Dwarves talked on regardless. Buffy gently touched his arm in the semi-darkness.

 

“Angel, what is it?”

 

Angel never once took his eyes off the ceiling. “There’s something on the roof.”

 

Buffy twisted round then too to look up at the ceiling, jostling Giles quite a bit in the process. Giles frowned and was about to hiss at her to keep still when there was a loud rumbling sound, and the ceiling shook slightly. Nearly everybody looked up then. A few people started to head towards the exits.

 

Only they never quite made it.

 

They had barely reached the stairs when the whole building began to shake as if the earth’s plates were shifting; but it was not the ground, but the ceiling, and the ornate gilt ceiling supports began to fold inwards, splintering like matchsticks as something drove in against them. Framed by the smashing wood and plaster, as if it were wearing a collar, a huge flat black head was coming through the ceiling.

 

It had slitted red nostrils that ballooned open and shut as the creature breathed; it had dark, almost black eyes with monstrous heavy lids that swept down over the scene in the small theatre. As the creature forced further in, everyone saw the sweeping horns sticking out at right-angles to its scaly head. Two front feet with magnificent hooked claws thudded down on to the red carpet, closely followed by what looked like a pair of leathery red wings.

 

Shoving, screaming, the audience fled for the exits. The long neck snapped out; the gaping jaws opened wide and suddenly someone had gone. The screaming intensified; the doors were nearly ripped from their hinges.

 

“What’s going on?” Buffy yelled. They appeared to be the only people not running away; they stood, staring up in a kind of revolted awe, at the creature slithering through the ceiling like a limbed snake.

 

“It’s a dragon,” Giles shouted back.

 

“A dragon? Does it breathe fire?”

 

“No, that’s a myth.”

 

“Great, so how do I kill it?”

 

“Buffy?” Angel said. “I think sometime soon would be good.”

 

The dragon had swung its head round to look at them. The eye blinked, and then its front legs lumbered forward. It appeared that the dragon was in a wheelbarrow position, and would have looked quite comical had it not been apparent that they were about to be eaten; shuffling forward, the reptile tugged its hind legs and tail through the hole, and landed on all fours with a resounding crash. Then it shrieked at them, the force of breath from its gaping throat nearly knocking them backwards.

 

“Okay, listen up scaly,” Buffy shouted, while frantically digging through her coat for a stake, “You ruin my Christmas, I’ll ruin your Christmas! One day the forces of darkness will learn not to piss around with my vacations.”

 

“It’s not technically a force of darkness,” Angel corrected her, rather inappropriately, “Dragons are animals.”

 

“I don’t care what it is, if it’s dangerous, I kill it.” Buffy’s face blanched as she pulled her hands from her empty pockets. “That is, allowing for the fact that I haven’t left my weapons at home.”

 

Giles groaned. “Oh, dear.”

 

The doors suddenly burst open and a smart attendant rushed in. “Hey! What’s going…” He stopped dead in his tracks as the dragon whipped around to look at him, and the man’s voice tapered off in to a squeak as the dragon locked eyes with him. “…on?”

 

There was a blur on Angel’s right and Buffy was gone, vaulting from the seats in to the aisle, and ripping a heavy fire extinguisher off the wall. Charging around to the dragon’s front she gave a brief shout to attract its attention, and then hurled the hefty metal cylinder with all her might. The fire extinguisher curved through the air, and hit the dragon on the head with a resounding smack.

 

Nearly deafened by its shrieks of outrage, Buffy grabbed the frozen theatre attendant and ran with him towards the door. It wasn’t in her nature to run from a fight, but taking on a reptile the size of a house with nothing but your fists and high heels was not a good idea. She sensed Angel racing up alongside her, and looked round to check that Giles was there too.

 

It seemed that most of Westbury had gathered on the pavement outside and was staring up at the colossal hole in the roof. Panting, hair flying all over the place, Buffy raced out of the building to join them, and looked up at the roof. There was a heavy thumping sound, like wings flapping, and the dragon exploded out of another section of roof. No sooner had it hit the night air than it spread its vast wings and dived for the ground; the crowd ducked and screamed, but the dragon didn’t seem to see them. It merely soared over their heads, flapped its wings and disappeared in to the night. Behind it, gathered on the pavement on that cold night, Buffy Summers was the only one left standing.

 

*

 

Zillah stretched out in Giles’ leather study chair. The little people were gone and the house was quiet. In fact, everyone had gone. Zillah pricked her soft triangular ears slightly as a horse kicked at its stable door from outside; then she stretched out her forelegs and curled up to go to sleep.

 

The study door flung open and Giles came in, pursued by Buffy and Angel. They were talking urgently about something; Zillah didn’t worry about what it was, until Giles started trying to tip her on to the floor. The cat got up, but wouldn’t budge, so in the end Giles just squashed up on the edge of the seat and Zillah collapsed again behind him.

 

“How can this have happened?” Angel was asking. “A dragon can’t just land in a little town like this, or people would notice.”

 

Buffy nodded, and turned to Giles. “Is it possible that something like this could have come from the Ouija board?”

 

Giles thoughtfully polished his glasses. “I’m not sure. I would have thought not, but I suppose… a dragon isn’t a demon. As Angel so rightly said, it isn’t an evil being, merely a rather destructive, violent animal. I wouldn’t have thought that a dragon would reside in the same dimension as ghosts, but… it’s certainly a remarkable coincidence.”

 

“And you know I don’t believe in those,” Buffy replied. “Is there any way we can maybe trace where it came from? Maybe there’s a spell or something that will make the Ouija board tell us what happened when it was used…?”

 

She trailed off, for Giles was shaking his head. “No. The only way to find out would be to make a contact and ask.”

 

There was a small moment of silence. Angel, standing quietly in the dark corner, now moved slightly and spoke. “”You’re suggesting we use the board?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“But nobody here is a medium,” Buffy pointed out. “Who’s to say we won’t just unleash something else nasty? I mean, do we need to know how it got here, really? Why can’t I just kill it?”

 

“Dragons are rather like dogs, Buffy. One species group, but one which really houses rather a wide variety of different creatures. And “dragon” is really a very loose term. All dragons have their own particular weaknesses and behavioural patterns. It would very much aid you if we could find out what breed it is and where it came from. A dragon is not to be underestimated, Buffy.”

 

“I get that,” she said softly. “But if this board is going to be spewing out dragons left right and centre? I’m the Slayer, Giles. My purpose is to protect innocent people and rid the world of evil, and this could totally undermine that.”

 

“All right.” Giles sat up and adopted a stern expression. “Let’s just leave the dragon to wreak havoc up and down the country. Innocent people will be safe then, I suppose.”

 

“Giles, again, I say, why can’t I just kill it?”

 

“For all we know the dragon is not the only creature to breach our dimension! We need to find out what happened and why.”

 

Buffy looked around at Angel. He calmly met her gaze, and one look at him was enough to calm her down so she could reply. She turned back to Giles and folded her arms as she gave her last word.

 

“Fine.”

 

*

 

“Everyone ready?”

 

Giles reached out and everyone linked hands. They sat on the kitchen floor, in a circle around the board. Buffy was uncomfortably aware of Angel’s cold hand around hers, and tried to focus on the board. Giles murmured the next stage and they all three reached out and placed two fingers on the planchette. Giles began trying to ask questions. Nothing happened for several minutes; Aristotle sat near by, watching curiously.

 

“This isn’t working, is it?” Buffy asked, after another long minute.

 

“It doesn’t seem to be,” Giles murmured, vague with concentration. “Maybe I’m doing it wrong – “

 

He took his hands off the board for a moment, and the Planchette began to swing.

 

Aristotle arched his back and hissed. Angel shifted slightly, and Buffy looked up wide-eyed at Giles. The moment the Planchette stopped, Giles was asking a question.

 

Who are you?

 

The answer came back at once.

 

A keeper.

 

A keeper of what?

 

A keeper of the Banished One.

 

Who or what is the Banished One?

 

The Planchette swung faster, moving from letter to letter so fast they could barely keep up.

 

A monster.

 

Is it a dragon?

 

It is the Devil.

 

Why are you the keeper?

 

I am the keeper.

 

Giles thought for a moment before asking the question again; the spirit hadn’t understood his question.

 

What is your connection to the Banished One?

 

It was I who banished the Banished One, thus ridding the Hill of evil. As we were connected in life, so we are in death.

 

What is the Hill?

 

The beast resided at Croydon Hill in life.

 

“Croydon Hill?” Angel said quietly. “That’s in Somerset, not far from here.”

 

Giles nodded, and put his hands back to the board.

 

How did you banish the beast?

 

I attempted to use a portal.

 

There was a moment, and then the Planchette asked:

 

What is the meaning of your questions?

 

Giles was beginning to look uncomfortable; he was not unaware of the danger the board was presenting, and he decided that that was enough. He merely said, Goodbye, and closed the connection.

 

Everyone took deep breaths, as if waking from a slumber.

 

“Croydon Hill,” Giles muttered to himself. He jumped up and hurried to his study; Buffy and Angel followed, and watched as Giles hunted frantically through his books for a moment.

 

“Here! Listen to this:

 

“Croydon Hill is home to a peculiar legend of unknown origins. The legend tells that, once upon a time, a ploughboy was told of the story of Croydon Hill monster, a devilish creature said to haunt the area. Upon visiting the hill, the ploughboy was attacked by a “horned beast.” He slashed at the creature with his plough blade and ran away. The Devil has not been sighted since, although the hill is said to be haunted by ghostly howls and moans, especially on dark stormy nights.”

 

Giles closed the book with a snap. “The Somerset area is beset with creature legends! A local legend tells of Blue Bell, a fearsome dragon who was harnessed by the Devil.”

 

“So what are you saying?” Buffy asked uncertainly.

 

“That what the Keeper guards is not the Devil, but a dragon. A dragon once resided on Croydon Hill.”

 

“A dragon,” Angel finished quietly, “That’s now flying around Westbury?”

 

“Yes. The little boy released the spirit of the dragon, but I closed the connection before the Keeper could follow.”

 

“If it’s just a spirit,” Buffy asked, “How come it’s corporeally smashing buildings?”

 

“Because… because the dragon isn’t dead,” Giles said softly, talking slowly as he worked out the puzzle. “Perhaps the dragon killed this Keeper during the banishing process… and the Keeper took the dragon with him. Dragons can live for centuries, and eat very little. The Keeper said that he and the dragon were connected in death. But he never said the dragon was dead.” Giles paused and leaned on his desk. “And this Keeper cannot find peace… he’s kept wandering the ethereal plains by the dragon, because it still lives… it ties him here.”

 

“So if I kill the dragon, he can rest?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Is there any other way?” Angel asked. He was clearly unhappy about the thought of Buffy tackling a dragon.

 

“A portal, possibly.” Giles agitatedly polished his glasses. “That might sever the link between the two spirits. The dragon and Keeper have always resided on the same plain, mortal or otherwise. Perhaps it might be wise to set up a portal as backup, Buffy. Angel is right –“ clearly Giles had read Angel’s anxiety as well – “this dragon will be a formidable opponent for you.”

 

“Good. Get on that. Now, Giles; where can I find this lizard?”

 

“I’d imagine it will head… well, home.” Giles replied softly. “Fancy a trip to Croydon Hill, anyone?”

 

*

 

It wasn’t hard to follow the dragon’s trail. There seemed to be almost a straight line of destruction; speeding down roads in Giles’ car, Buffy peered out and saw houses, crumpled to the ground like paper. Here and there fires had broken out, and at one point they saw ambulances and several people lying on the ground. A baby screamed as the car swept past.

 

In the backseat, Angel riffled quickly through books, sorting out the spell Giles would need to open a portal. Portals were unpredictable, and Giles had no idea which dimension he would be opening up. Buffy looked down at the glistening broad sword on her lap and knew it didn’t matter.

 

Giles started to slow down as they approached the hill. It was less an actual hill, and more an expanse of flat, slightly curving ground. There were no buildings, no people. It was perfect.

 

Buffy saw it long before it saw them. Hard to miss, the creature was tramping around on the ground, silhouetted against a weak moonlight. Giles stopped a good distance away, and he silently got out the car and started setting up his ingredients a short distance away. Standing on the slightly damp grass, Buffy heard Angel getting out of the car to stand beside her – and as he squeezed out of the vehicle, the sword he carried snagged on some Christmas decorations Giles had left in his car. There was a long stream of plastic bells and they made a tremendous clanging sound as they tipped out on to the grass. The dragon’s head snapped up and it stared straight at them; too startled to react immediately, it merely stood and stared for a moment.

 

“Sorry.”

 

“Oh, well.” Buffy sighed and raised her sword. “It had to see us sooner or later.”

 

And Buffy darted to the left and started running.

 

She had to keep the dragon away from Giles, and so she ran flat out around the dragon, drawing its attention away to the north. Angel waited until it was focused on her, and then ran the other way. Together they ran a great circle, the creature spinning to follow Buffy, coming together to clash in the middle. The dragon’s tail slithered through the wet grass like a python as it turned on the spot, its keen dark eyes fixed on the lithe girl, darting along like a little bug.

 

Then it moved.

 

The dragon had a wide vision range and it suddenly saw Angel coming at it from the right. Moving with incredible speed for a creature so cumbersome, it raced forward and reared up on to its back legs, beating its wings and screeching. Angel dived forward in to a roll and felt the heavy jaws snap at the air, exactly where he had just stood.

 

“Angel!”

 

Buffy was suddenly there and she swung the sword. The point slashed a deep gash through the tough skin on the dragon’s leg and it staggered, falling heavily on to all fours, before lumbering forward and flapping its wings to get in to the air. Blood flying from its leg, the dragon flew higher and circled in the air before coming down to land.

 

There was a sudden burst of red sparks, and a flaming red portal opened in front of Giles. The dragon whisked around to look – and saw Giles.

 

Beating its wings, the dragon screeched in outrage and launched itself straight at the unprotected Englishman. The car was inbetween Buffy and Giles, but the doors were open, and Buffy started running. Grabbing the sword close to her, she dived in to the car and rolled straight out the other side – and in her fist she clutched the string of Christmas bells. Running directly beneath the flying creature, she swung the bells in to the air.

 

The dragon, swooping towards the man, suddenly felt a sharp tug as something wrapped itself around its legs; its flight wobbled and it screeched in alarm as it wavered of course, directly towards a large copse of trees. The trees folded over like matchsticks as the weight crashed in to them; the dragon ploughed straight through and thumped to the ground. Staggering now, its legs bound tightly in bells, the dragon flapped its wings and hopped a few feet in to the open. Buffy set her jaw and began to walk forwards, sword in hand to finish it off, but suddenly Angel was there.

 

“Buffy… wait…”

 

He held her back and they watched in silence, the portal rippling quietly in the background. The dragon’s dark scales gleamed in the moonlight as it slammed its head in to the ground. Its horns and teeth ripped up soil, sending clumps of it flying high in to the air. It screamed, beating its wings once more, and slashing frantically at the earth, crying out all the while.

 

“What’s it doing?”

 

Angel watched mesmerised, his hand gently gripping Buffy’s shoulder. “It’s looking for a portal,” he murmured. “It wants to go home, Buffy, it’s… it’s frightened.”

 

And Buffy felt her heart grow calmer, and she slowly let her sword fall in to the dirt and balance there, and she and Angel backed quietly away. Giles joined them, and they stopped a short distance away and watched. The dragon looked at them for a long moment, and just for a second, Buffy was almost sure she could see something in its blank eyes that was so much more than darkness. And then it was gone and the dragon was in the air and flapping for the portal. The bells jingled crazily, and there was a cascade of red sparks as the portal swallowed the dragon and sealed itself. A light breeze ruffled the grass, and nothing stirred.

 

*

 

Lying in bed, Timmy watched the night outside through his open bedroom window. He was blinking sleepily, starting to drift off, when he heard a sort of jingling in the far distance. Easing his little body out of bed, the young boy padded to his window and stood on tiptoe to look out.

 

In the distance, he saw a spray of red sparks and a flash, and the jingling of bells died away. A smile on his face, Timmy went back to bed, knowing that Santa was on his way back home. Back to the North Pole, to start wrapping presents in time for next Christmas.

 

 

 

Author’s Notes:

The legend of the beast on Croydon Hill is a true folktale. It was of course adapted to my story, but it’s basically true. A version of this fascinating legend can be read here:

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/somerset/somerset10.html

While the danger of the Ouija board was of course somewhat exaggerated here – and it’s rather unlikely to give you dragons, granted – the Ouija board IS dangerous and should not be used by inexperienced hands. If you attempt to use a board, please always seek advice beforehand.

 



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