and Giles investigate an unusual occurrence at a haunted mansion in a hidden
valley in the Cotswolds. Angel haunts familiar ground in London.
Thank You to the magnificent Jo for her beta.
off her Coke with one last swallow as she glances out at the day through the
library window. She sighs, wishing she were back at the small flat with her
sleeping boyfriend. Buffy smiles at the thought. Boyfriend! It has a nice ring
to it, if you forget that the boyfriend is actually older than anyone alive.
you paying attention?” Giles has that wrinkle above his brow that says that
he’s only so patient, and is getting annoyed.
Giles, I heard you, but do we have to go now? Can’t we wait until the sun…?”
tries to be patient. This thing with Buffy and Angel - he is more accepting
now, has called Angel friend and he knows how much Buffy appreciates it. Giles
pinches his glasses off his nose, and begins to polish them with a handkerchief
that is ever present in his pocket.
“It will take
a while to get to our destination, and that is not allowing for any snarls in
traffic. As it is the class will mostly likely be over when we arrive.”
having come to the house for a bite to eat. The flat she shares with Angel is
now stocked with some food, but she hadn’t wanted to disturb his sleep so had
slipped over to the kitchen for lunch. Looking at her friend and Watcher, she
knows that she is doomed no matter which way she pouts. She wonders when things
had got back to normal. Adjusting the offending lips, she tries once more
before giving in.
“Okay, but I
still say that Angel would be handy to have with us. I mean ghosts and haunted
castles, right up his alley. He is dead, and seems to have a natural *feel* for
anything that goes *bump*.”
his smile and tries to look immune to her feminine wiles. “That’s as may be,
but the curator was rather insistent. The Mansion is not a castle, Buffy, it’s
a stately home.”
Buffy stands and stretches. “I thought ghosts haunted places at night, so
what’s the big deal with daytime spooks?”
“We don’t know
that it is a *spook* Buffy, therein lies the problem. This is why I think it
prudent that you come along to deal with anything that might prove dangerous.”
Buffy knows he
is right, although the thought of leaving Angel is not one she relishes. The
very nature of their work dictates their days and nights, and Buffy thinks that
even one night apart is one too many.
to sort through the books on his desk as if dismissing her. He seems eager to
be gone and Buffy grudgingly admits defeat. Maybe Giles just wants her company,
he too has felt the bite of despair, grief and loss, and maybe a field trip
with just the two of them will help. She hides her smile when she reflects on
the field trips Giles has had with Angel recently. Men, no matter how old, how
very old, were boys at heart sometimes.
She lifts an
eyebrow. “So, weapons it is.”
his hand and watches Buffy leave the room. Giles is looking forward to sinking
his teeth into this mystery, and having Buffy along will be like old times, the
Slayer and her Watcher, struggling to solve a demonic mystery. He renews his
efforts to gather his books, choosing two for the journey. Giles heads to the
kitchen for the rest of his supplies.
the open ground to the upstairs flat and lets herself into its darkened
interior. As quietly as she can, Buffy tiptoes to the dresser, moving past the
sleeping vampire on the bed. Giles has suggested that she bring along a change
of clothes, just in case they end up staying a night.
her heart in her throat. She turns to see Angel watching her.
she corrects as she detours back to the bed to give her favourite vampire a
kiss. Their lips meet and Buffy feels strong arms drag her onto the bed.
She sinks into
his body and the kiss, enjoying the moment.
“Giles has a
case up north and wants me along. Sorry, as it’s daylight…” Buffy is a little
breathless when her lips lose contact with his.
clothes,” he states. “Will you be gone long?”
not.” Buffy kisses Angel quickly, reluctantly pulling away from his touch, and
heads for the dresser. The lamp beside the bed clicks on and Buffy gives Angel
a grateful smile, her stomach doing a flip when she looks over to see her very
attractive, sleep-tousled lover. Darn.
Leaving this room is not going to be easy.
She turns her attention to the task at hand with much effort.
Woodchester Mansion has a ghost, or several, according to Giles.” She grabs a
change of underwear and begins looking for another jumper.
for that.” Angel’s deep voice rumbles at her.
“Do I have to
come over and hurt you?” she teases as she finishes rooting around.
her head at the oddness that is Angel, and continues her task with a smile. She
places her clothing atop the dresser, and steps into the bathroom.
Buffy continues as if she hasn’t just promised him bodily harm, “This
particular whatever was conjured up, or called, or something.” She reappears
with toothpaste and brushes, trying to ignore the body in the bed.
however, will not be ignored. “Conjured?”
things into a bag that also contains a few handy slayer weapons, Buffy answers,
“Yeah. Some idiot tourist or local is responsible. There’s a class or
something, so we have to leave now.”
the bag and her coat on the bed, and sits. “You go back to sleep, you got in
late this morning.”
hand strokes her thigh, reminding her of the love-making they had enjoyed when
Angel had finally come to bed. She alters her days somewhat trying to
accommodate living with a vampire. It’s not that hard, she is after all the
slayer and night-time activities are pretty much a prerequisite. She feels guilty though, that he is confined
to the flat during the day, not having the luxury of a tunnel network to enable
reflects in his eyes, making them glow as he looks at her.
he whispers before pulling her head down for one last kiss.
breath, Buffy murmurs “unfair,” and “always,” before heading out the door.
Angel turns off
the lamp but sleep eludes him. He lies there thinking of Buffy, and the wonder
of their togetherness, for not the first; or hundredth time. Truth be told, he
does feel confined here, isolated in the English countryside, unable to venture
out until sunset. The confinement is less constraining now that he shares his
days with Buffy. For now, the coiling unease within lies dormant, and Angel is
happy to bide a while, making no demands on Buffy.
He reflects on
the word, happy. How can he be happy after all that has happened? Why does he
get a second or third or even fourth chance, when others he cared about didn’t?
Angel sighs and lies there, blinking up at the ceiling.
gazing out the window thinking about Angel. Her sunglasses hold back the brilliance
of a surprisingly sunny winter’s day. The sunlight stripes her body as they
move through a tree-lined road, bringing warmth to her face and arms. She
thinks how unfair that he can’t enjoy this, bask in the sunshine, and sprawl
about at picnics. Hell! He can’t even enjoy the food on a picnic. Buffy shakes
the thought away. Angel would have been dead centuries if he had never been
turned; she would not have had the pleasure, or the pain, of loving him in this
lifetime. Besides, being a vampire does have its advantages, speed, super
senses, strength, stamina - she blushes - and eternal beauty. She is a slayer
who lives a dangerous life. Angel is perfect for her. She thinks him perfect.
She dozes, smiling dreamily about the vampire in her life.
Giles is quiet
and content to let Buffy dream. Buffy, to all appearances, is happy and being
with Angel makes this so. He is happy that she is happy; he sees the smile
gracing her lips and welcomes this excursion.
The sun will do her some good, her tan has waned somewhat, Buffy is no
longer the golden brown that befits a Roman sun. Giles does not want Buffy wan
and pale, living the life of a vampire, although she does to a degree as she
stalks the nights to slay such creatures. Giles wants Buffy to live as a young
woman should, in the sun, carefree and without fear of demons or evil. Giles
knows that this is not to be, but cannot help but try to do what little he can.
He chuckles inwardly. That’s why you’re taking her to a haunted mansion to do
what a slayer is born to do, old boy.
The trip is
uneventful and the conversation mute. Buffy rouses from her doze to watch
unfamiliar landscapes slide by. Some of the towns are quaint; she is sure that it’s
one of the words Giles would use; other towns were downright ugly. Most were English. The names are weird though.
Take Gloucestershire. Buffy is sure there isn’t a ‘C’ present when Giles
pronounces it. She giggles when she sees the sign, Nympsfield.
his head. “What am I missing?”
again. “Nympsfield. The sign we just passed. Are there Nymps living there?” she
asks, deliberately mispronouncing the word.
his head and smiles, pleased that Buffy is taking an interest. “It’s not far
now,” he says as he follows the road until he finds the field he is looking
for. He negotiates the Discovery until
he is satisfied with the spot he has chosen, and parks.
“Is this is
it? Coaley Peak?” Buffy asks, as she jumps down from the car.
their luggage from the back. “There is no access to the Mansion from
Woodchester. There is a mini bus if you want.”
Buffy eyes the
group of tourists milling about after disembarking from the bus.
“No thanks.” She relieves Giles of her bag.
“We walk?” She raises a brow.
spending too much time with Angel, Giles thinks, as he leads the way to the
wooded path. The walk is a pleasant one, winding through the remains of an 18th
and 19th Century parkland. The wind is absent, and Buffy enjoys stretching her
legs after being cooped up in the car. She takes in the bare beauty of the
small lakes they skirt. This would be a lovely place in the spring, she thinks,
grateful that on this cold bright day, it hasn’t been snowing. She wonders if Angel has ever visited, then
amends that thought to, Angelus. She shivers as goose bumps crawl up her arms.
It may not be a good idea to ask him to bring her here on a romantic weekend;
after all, recent events have had Angel facing the horrors of his actions,
without bringing up more of his past.
merrily along, chatting about the park and its history with Buffy barely
managing to keep up, her stride being less than his. He had attended the
Mansion in his younger days and knows which of the many crisscrossing paths to
follow. Woodchester Mansion is one of the most haunted places in Britain and so
has been invaluable as a teaching tool for young Watchers. He is busy imparting
this information to Buffy when they come across their first view of the
Both Buffy and
Giles stop to admire the House.
“It’s big and
sorta creepy. Does anyone live there?” Buffy eyes up the imposing stone
building. It is almost a cathedral she thinks, without the spires, although
there appears to be a bell tower rearing its ugly head.
heard a word I’ve said?” Giles huffs at her.
rolls her eyes at him. “What haven’t you been saying? You’ve said so many
things, it’s hard to keep track.”
Giles pushes his
glasses up his nose with a mock glare. “Come on, we’ve got an appointment to
keep and no, the Mansion is not inhabited unless you count the spirits and
haunts. The National Trust owns most of Woodchester Park but it is the Stroud
District Council that owns The Mansion and its immediate surrounds. It is
leased to the Woodchester Mansion Trust by the Council.”
muttering, “Council huh?”
Buffy,” Giles orders, eager to be at the Mansion, doesn’t see the salute that
his slayer executes behind his back.
Buffy and her
Watcher are finally before the grand old building. A man and woman stand there,
waiting. Buffy’s eyes, however, are on the gargoyles that hover in stone
guarding the gothic building. Feeling as though the gargoyles are staring, her
eyes go back to the odd couple before her.
Giles?” says the middle-aged suit. He gestures to the woman beside him.
“This is Ms.
Roundtree; she supervises The Wyrd Tree Occult class.”
the man’s hand. “Pleased to meet you, Warden. This is my associate, Miss
Summers.” Giles nods to Ms. Roundtree. “Miss Roundtree.”
Roundtree’s forehead furrows.
“Wyrd spelt W
Y R D, Miss Summers.”
slayer puts out her hand, and Ms Roundtree places her own slim hand in hers.
answers. “Wyrd in Nordic cosmology means Fate or ‘that which is’. We run a
Centre for Spiritual Development and Esoteric Studies.”
school-like.” Buffy scrutinizes the slender woman. Her long brown hair is
braided to her waist. The long skirt and beaded shirt scream gypsy, as do her
doe-eyes and dusky skin. Buffy is suddenly happy that Angel is not with them.
interrupts. “Well, I’ll leave you to it. Not to worry about closing, you can
stay on until needs be. The tearoom will be open for another half an hour.” He
hands a business card to Giles. “You can reach me at this number. I recommend
The Horse and Groom if you need a place to stay; it’s a quiet little inn and B
& B, not far.”
“Thank you sir,
we’ll consider it.” Giles tucks the card away as the Warden disappears down the
but you’re too late. The class dispersed an hour ago. I couldn’t persuade
anyone to stay on,” Ms Roundtree explains.
dismayed and thirsty. He resists the urge to detour to the tearoom for a
welcome pot of tea.
“Best lead on,
Ms Roundtree,” he says, and his disappointment emphasizes the Ms. He is of the
old school and believes that a miss should be called miss, not this modern
appellation that he finds distasteful.
the woman and steps into another world. The chill hits her causing her to
shiver once more. Buffy sets her bag down and hugs herself, glad that she has
worn her heavy coat, and she looks about in amazement. The inside is
spectacular. Buffy cranes her neck at the high ceilings, feeling a rush of
vertigo as she turns about. She brushes against something, Giles, as he waits
for her to finish her spin.
apologizes, picking up her bag once more.
Giles isn’t unhappy
at all. “This is magnificent as it is. Unfortunately it remains unfinished,
imagine the grandeur if one were to view the completed work.”
sidesteps Buffy and advances to where Rebecca waits patiently. “It’s her first
time,” he explains as they set off once more.
hears the woman’s reply as she twists her neck to the ceiling again. The
vaulted ceilings seem to press down and a fierce boss grimaces at her. Carved
leaves and vines adorn the high ceiling, and stone runs skywards, keeping pace
with arched windows and leads nowhere. Buffy is impressed. She hurries after
the other two, traverses the foyer and walks past unfinished rooms, some of
which have no floors. Buffy notices a fireplace high in a wall. The chill that
seeps into her bones now feels more sinister, it isn’t the cool of the air.
Buffy feels it is something ‘other’.
all the stone?” The slayer wonders if the people who built this house had ever
heard of trees.
with the eagerness of a teacher upon an inquisitive pupil.
castles and the like were bastions of the family seat. They were built to
defend, endure and impress. Stonemasons
come here to learn specifics of their craft. They run classes here, workshops
if you will, for particular skills.”
craftsmen can use these skills to renovate or preserve old stately homes,
cathedrals, and churches.”
“uh huh,” and Giles gives up. His slayer can only take so much information and
he knows it’s not because she is lacking in intelligence. Buffy has a keen mind
and she uses it, her brain just works differently, more in line with her
slayer-ness, she uses her intuition and at times can see through a puzzle with
Finally they emerge
into a room that once contained furniture, only now the furniture resembles
“This is where
it happened?” Giles says, stating the obvious. He steps over the debris
carefully, still managing to roll his foot against a lone chair leg, wobbling a
little as he loses his balance for a second or two.
“This is where
we hold the scrying class. It is surprising the number of people who are
willing to open their minds to the possibility, and many wish to learn the
Isn’t that witchcraft?” Buffy asks as she treads through the debris with slayer
some may call it that. Scrying is used as a way of divination. We teach
techniques and practice the art.” Ms Roundtree, Rebecca, sounds a little put
crystal balls, right?” Buffy spies shattered pieces of glass and is convinced
that the woman is not all she seems.
about in his bag and produces his books.
Rebecca continues, “But we also teach our clients exercises to open them up to
sensing the energies about them…us.”
“I imagine the
spectral inhabitants of the Mansion offer a golden opportunity to test those
theories.” Giles places his books on top of his bag when he realises that there
is nowhere else to put them. He begins to clear a space.
crystal balls.” Buffy can’t get past the gypsy thing. She is defensive for
Angel’s sake and he isn’t even here.
come across her chest in an angry gesture, her mouth sets in a thin line.
“Gypsies! Child’s play! We offer the
say that if you knew the power the gypsies have,” Buffy retorts.
bag she begins to walk around the walls, the conversation finished, her body
language tense. Okay, so she isn’t a gypsy, Buffy still can’t help but dislike
understands Buffy’s fears and tries to ease the tension by asking, “Tell me
to Rebecca’s account of the events leading to the destruction of the room.
It appears as if
a member of the class has managed to tap into something very powerful, so
powerful that it emerged from whatever realm it inhabits and entered theirs.
Buffy snorts softly as she surveys the wreckage and the walls. Wait? Are those
“Who was it?”
her question, sure now that there is a demon involved. “Who was it, the person
who did the scrying?”
“Well, we were
“Yeah, I get
that but there must have been someone whom you thought had a stronger sense of
something. You know; someone special or unusual?”
at Buffy as she mentally reviews her clients.
“What are you
getting at, Buffy?” Giles asks.
“There was a
man, Mr. Witlow. Arthur Witlow, he was here because his wife had recently passed
away and he wanted to know if there was any way of contacting her. His aura was
unusual.” Rebecca carefully moves to where Buffy stands and leans against the
A space now
available on the stone floor, Giles starts to lay out his majick supply. He looks
up at the two women.
“Surely he wasn’t trying to contact his wife,
here? This place has its own haunts; hers would not be one of them.”
that he wasn’t, he was here to learn if it was possible.”
After the last
item is laid out, Rebecca adds, “You know you cannot perform an exorcism here.
The Mansion has many spirits and the Trust would not be pleased if you
exorcised them all.”
Warden made that clear on the telephone. Perhaps you could go over the ritual
in detail; it will help fill in the blanks.” Giles pulls a ruined cushion over
and gestures for the woman to sit. He grabs one for himself and awkwardly sits,
his legs not quite crossed; he isn’t as limber as he used to be.
Buffy tunes out
Rebecca’s voice and looks about again. She spies a dark figure lurking in the
hallway and for a moment she thinks its Angel. She glances quickly out the
window, the sun has set and evening is upon them. She glances back; the figure,
she is sure it is that of a man, is sliding past the doorway. Buffy decides to
follow, snatches up her flashlight and leaves. The other two, engrossed in
their conversation, do not notice her departure.
The sun has
set, finally releasing Angel from his four walls. He slips into the house to
inform Martha that he is going out. It isn’t that he needs to check in; he
thinks it’s polite to do so. Angel heads down the driveway, past the little
Mini that Buffy calls her own. His precious car is in the shop; the radiator
and grill a mangled mess after a close encounter with a demon that refused to
die unless smashed against a brick wall with a very heavy object. Angel prefers
not to fold his long legs into the small confines of the Mini, at least, not
more than is necessary.
sun has daubed the countryside with its rosy glow. It enables him to enjoy the
beauty of his surroundings before true darkness falls. His long woollen coat
flaps about his ankles as he heads towards the village to see what is
happening. Hopefully there will be
trouble that needs sorting. He is in the mood for a bit of violence, a demon or
two, a brawl at the very least, although with a slayer living near by, he
doubts he will be rewarded. His stride lengthens and it feels good to be
moving. He doesn’t like to be cooped up, it’s one of the reasons he usually
chooses accommodations that are more spacious.
The village is
quiet as he expects, and nothing untoward is happening at the small pub. Angel
continues his stroll looking for signs of trouble. A little disappointed, he
walks along the main road that leads out of town doing what he does best,
brooding. In particular, Angel is thinking about his son, and it is weighing
heavy upon his soul. He doesn’t know the specifics of what has happened to Connor
and the coven was not exactly free with any information. The letter he had from
Connor doesn’t sit well with him and it only raises more questions. He knows he
should be back in Los Angeles looking into the matter, trying to solve the
mystery, hopefully finding his son alive. Angel knows why he is not; he is
afraid of finding what he fears most of all. That Connor has died bringing him
back to this world. The coven had insisted that it was their doing, their
majicks that had enabled the resurrection. Angel is not so sure. He is never
one to take anything at face value at least not since Wesley had kidnapped…
“Want a lift?”
Angel has been
so lost in thought, he hasn’t heard the rumble of the truck until it stops
level with him, the driver asking if he needs a ride.
He peers at
the dark head looking back at him. “Where are you headed?”
London. A lot
of dark memories surface and he hesitates.
leans over. “Son?”
almost undoes him. He reaches up, opens the door and pulls his long body into
the cab. The truck driver throws him a smile; his worn face friendly and
Henry.” He shifts the gears, and gets the vehicle moving while looking
inquiringly at his passenger.
smiles back sensing the warmth of character from Henry. Angel relaxes against
American?” Henry asks. “You sound American. Are you on holiday?”
if he has made a mistake. “No… I’m not, although I have lived in America for a long
time...” he gestures at his mouth, “I picked up the accent.”
“Never been to
America. Never been anywhere much. I drive my truck to and from London, so home
looks pretty good when I’ve got the chance.”
is happy to steer the conversation away from his sorry life.
to have company, is willing to talk about his wife Caroline, who, it turns out,
is a member of the church choir. Included in his ramblings are his brother, who
owns the local pub, and Henry’s love of fishing where and when he can put out
to sea. Angel listens to the life story of this average man, reacquainting
himself with the sort of person for whom he sometimes saves the world. Content
to listen, he asks very few questions. The man cannot stop talking.
follows the dark figure through the house. She thinks she spies it near a
doorway only to find it isn’t there, and she hurries down a long hallway
chasing shadows. Nearly running now, Buffy enters a room to find it empty. She
stands confused for a moment until she hears someone tapping nearby.
calls as she runs into the next room. It too is empty. The knocking echoes
behind her and huffing in exasperation Buffy races out. There is nothing in the
hall and she is getting pretty ticked. Buffy continues down the hall, opening a
door that leads, unexpectedly, into an internal courtyard. Surprised, Buffy
steps out into the jumbled gloom searching for anything unusual. The exercise
proves fruitless and she steps back into the house closing the door behind her.
This is getting ridiculous. The
slayer leans up against a wall and jumps when she dislodges a tool that has
been left atop the partially finished wall. It clatters loudly to the ground. Good one, Buffy thinks, announce your whereabouts to the spooks.
A knock echoes
eerily from one of the distant rooms and she heads off in that direction. Buffy
enters a room that surprises her in its completeness. She switches on her
flashlight to read the sign, Drawing
Room. Keeping the light on, the advantage of stealth lost, Buffy continues
her hunt for the male figure she believes is deliberately trying to drive her
crazy. Buffy is soon lost and is ready to give up when she hears the oddest
sound. At first she thinks it is someone dragging a heavy box across the stone
floors when another sound not unlike that of a train joins the first. The noise
is travelling towards her and it is moving fast. Buffy puts a hand on a wall to
brace herself when the floor begins to vibrate. Beneath her palm the wall
starts to tremor, and just when she imagines an actual train is about to crush
her, the sounds stops. Buffy pants into the sudden silence, her heart thudding
loudly in her ears.
Giles’ call from another part of the house. Her eyes wide, she trots down the
dark passageways to an anxious Giles.
heavens,” he says, relief evident when she emerges from the darkness. Buffy
looks about the now lit room. A large fluorescent lamp sits on the floor
emitting cold white light, a small gas heater is burning but of Ms Roundtree
there is no sign.
“Where did she
getting late…Buffy,” Giles peers behind her into the gloom, “did you hear
off her torch, her hand not quite steady. “Something as in a freight train
about to run me over? And let’s not forget someone playing games by knocking on
walls, and hey! There was a man lurking about. Is that what you mean?” She
throws herself down on one of the spare cushions, barely keeping from knocking
over a jar of something that looks like sand. Buffy pushes the jar away before
noticing a paper-wrapped packet sitting on top of one of Giles’ bags.
“Is that food?
You brought food, Giles?” Buffy stretches out an arm and makes to grab the package
but her Watcher gets there first. His larger hand curls about the paper and
lifts it up before settling on his lap as he joins her on the floor.
“I had Martha
make up some sandwiches. I hope you like egg?”
Buffy nods and
accepts the offered sandwich. “Is there juice?” she asks hopefully.
into his bag and pulls out a thermos. “I brought coffee. It’ll help us stay
alert.” Giles wishes it were tea from a pot and fresh, with buttered scones,
but needs must.
really come prepared don’t you?” Buffy says as she accepts her plastic cup and
a sachet of sugar. A plastic spoon appears and Buffy says, “Uh-huh.”
Giles takes a
welcome bite of his sandwich. “What you experienced is normal for the Mansion.
It’s been well documented. In fact there have been several televised programmes
made here. What isn’t normal is that everything you have described usually
happens at a much later hour and never simultaneously. Something is definitely
Buffy mumbles around a mouthful of egg and bread.
“We have to
examine the area to…”
chewing before saying, “Where did you…?”
over and snags another sandwich. Opening the bread she discovers cheese, pickle
and ham. She gets up to show Giles the claw marks she had discovered earlier.
points, still munching on her sandwich.
softly as he manoeuvres his legs about and gets to his knees. “I’m getting too
old for this,” he mutters as he manages to stagger upright.
her torch from her pocket and shines the light onto the mark. Giles lifts his
glasses off his nose, and peers at the indentation before popping them back to
take another look.
didn’t you mention this earlier?” He straightens, looking down at his blonde
off his peeved face. “I was off chasing shadows. Besides, you and Ms Roundtree
were bonding.” She abruptly sits on her cushion and finishes off her sandwich,
peeved because he is peeved.
her and picks up the last sandwich before Buffy decides she is going to have it
group, or rather Arthur Witlow, summoned, has claws.” Giles glares his
ownership of the sandwich to which Buffy smiles sweetly.
“So, we wait
for it to come back?”
spirits slump, her smile slips, and her shoulders follow suit. This is going to be a long night. Buffy wonders what Angel is doing without
sits and chews, a hint of a smile on his lips.
“Here I am,
talking you to death,” says Henry, looking over with a sorry smile. “I’m sorry
son, it gets lonely driving to and fro and my mouth tends to run away with me.”
from his semi doze. He hasn’t been ignoring the constant chatter; in fact he
has listened intently, letting the man’s life wash over him, a warm blanket
wrapping him in its pleasant dream.
his head. “Now you’re just being kind. What do you want to talk about? Family,
He definitely does not want to talk about family, or politics, and football?
No, he’d rather not talk at all. Sighing, he spies the man watching him with
something like hope, so he takes a stab at something, anything.
Didn’t pick you for that game, you look more like a rugby player.”
They play ice hockey in the States and I kinda got hooked on it…the last year or
so…” Angel pauses not knowing what to say next.
skated myself.” Pride swells his chest and Angel can hear the blood rushing
through the man’s heart. “I played rugby at school, was quite good at it too,
so they said. I remember once, we had to play away…” Henry is off reminiscing,
for which the vampire is grateful. He relaxes with images of brawny teenagers
scrumming in the mud.
awake. She had fallen asleep and looking across at Giles sees that he has too,
his open book providing a pillow for his face. The faint glow of the rescued
heater barely warms the room from its winter chill. She clutches at the blanket
Giles has placed over her, and listens. There it is again, a faint tapping.
Buffy leans back to glance up at the ceiling; the sound is coming from above.
She hasn’t made it to the next floor and she really doesn’t want to go there
now. Still, when the knock sounds again, Buffy quietly shifts herself and
creeps out of the room, leaving Giles to his dreams. A normal girl or boy would
not have been creeping about in the middle of the night but Buffy is no
ordinary girl. Keeping her tread light, Buffy ascends the stairs. At the top,
the sound ceases. Buffy doesn’t move another step and stops breathing in an
effort to hear anything at all. Not being a vampire, Buffy sucks in air less
than a minute later in a shuddering gasp. She starts moving again, her light
casting eerie shadows around her. A tap sounds at the end of the corridor and
Buffy heads towards it. It stops again, forcing Buffy to stop too. A minute
passes before it sounds again, and she is getting pretty annoyed with it all.
Buffy shines her torch into the inky blackness and sees nothing but walls and
doors. She turns around thinking; this is ridiculous, she won’t be able to find
anything in this empty husk of a building, especially at night. Meeting the
stairs at the top of the landing, Buffy hears the tapping again. Squaring her
shoulders and wishing she had more than a stake in her pocket, Buffy switches
off the light. Blinking away the bright spots behind her eyelids, she waits in
the darkness. The tap comes again and this time Buffy can hear that it comes
from above. She is patient, she is prepared to stand in this spot and not go
haring off again in the gloom, when suddenly she hears a loud creak and groan
as the stone ceiling collapses. She yells in trepidation and leaps down the
stairs in a bid to escape. Breathing hard at the bottom, Buffy stares back up
the stairs, unable to see and thanking the Powers that she didn’t break a leg
in her hurried flight. When she turns on her light, the stairs are clear and
the ceiling is intact.
makes her jump. Heart in her throat she whirls to see her Watcher stumbling up
Giles. I thought the ceiling was falling but I was mistaken.” She directs her
light towards the roof.
Nothing,” she babbles, “this place has some serious spooks.”
Giles peers up
at the high ceiling, his hair in disarray and his clothes rumpled. Buffy knows
that she must look a sight too.
“The sound you
heard; you’re not the only one to have experienced that. We don’t know what it
all means, this paranormal activity. The Mansion has attracted spirits and
haunts that may have died here or have been drawn here for some unfathomable
“Yeah, well, I
want something solid to hit, I don’t like this scare-you-to-death with spooky
sounds. Give me a demon of some sort and I’m there.”
the way back to their room, a wry smile acknowledging Buffy’s solution to the
problem. “Apparently, twenty American soldiers drowned in the ponds in the War.
It’s some distance, maybe a mile down in the valley, and it’s passing strange
that after all these years the Mansion keeps welcoming spirits of the dead.”
Witlow woman, you know, the dead wife, maybe her ghost did end up here.”
into the dark corners and crevices, expecting something to jump out at them, hoping
that something will, just so that she can hit it and be done with this whole
Giles stops in
the doorway to their temporary room. The flashlight reflects off his watch as
he runs a hand through his hair.
the claw mark on the wall, I would agree with you. Something demonic is at work
here, and we may have to wait until daybreak to track it.”
Buffy steps up to her friend, forcing him inside. “Just what we need, another
day in this dump. And how come we wait, huh? Demons love the dark, it’s what
they do, lurk in the dark. Why hasn’t it come out to play?”
at his slayer’s little rant. “I’ll have to remember to ask it that when we see
the lights of London draw near, although the vast sprawling entity has invaded
the countryside long before the lights of the city proper did. The place has
changed but people are still the same, no matter what the century. He gazes in
fascination at Henry’s reflection as it bounces off the windscreen, and sometimes
it stares at him from the side window. Angel hopes the man hasn’t noticed his
lack; he hasn’t smelled fear in the cab.
longer has folks. Anyone else he has known is long dead. “No.”
chuckles. “You don’t say much.”
“I get that,”
and he manages the barest of smiles.
By now the
truck is rattling through the city and manages to get caught up with late
traffic. They stop at an intersection, which gives Angel a chance to read the
street names. He doesn’t recognize many, though a few catch his attention.
“Are we near
All Soul’s Cemetery?”
“Do you mean
the Kensal Green Cemetery?”
Angel nods in
“Do you wish
to get off there?” Henry raises his eyebrows. “The place will be closed by
now.” Henry is now looking at him with sympathy and Angel squirms. He doesn’t
deserve his good wishes.
do.” Another cemetery, just what he needs. Angel knows that vampires, at least
newly turned vampires, can always be found in cemeteries. It is a good place to
start his visit to London.
over on Old Oak Lane. This is his regular route through to Park Royal where he
offloads and picks up his return freight. Wormwood Scrubs Park is nearby. Now
that is a name one never forgets.
As he opens
the door, Henry offers, “I’ll be coming through here at seven tomorrow night if
you need a lift back.”
generosity touches him deeply. The monster in him would have eaten the man.
thanks him, yes, and lets him go. The truck rumbles off midst the blare of an
indignant horn, leaving the ensouled vampire alone in London. Angel sticks his
hands in his pockets, feels the stakes there before striding off down the
street. A little busy work is just what he needs. He knows that London has more
than its fair share of vampires; he is looking forward to meeting a few.
Killing vampires was how he started his new life in Los Angeles; killing
vampires may be the way he finishes it.
legs devour the pavement and before long he is walking the Old Oak Common Lane
which leads him to Old Oak Common at the end of the Park. He stares at the
winding steel that covers the ground to the left of him. The locomotives are
staring back, some are grunting with their efforts, others are silent and
waiting. He is walking on the precipice that divides nature and machine. Angel
feels he is constantly teetering on his own precipice. Man and monster.
The St Mary’s
RC Cemetery looms to his right, the imposing gates closed. Angel is not
deterred. He crouches and leaps gracefully over the wall and lands silently in
the vast burial ground. Angelus was responsible for not a few headstones and
Angel swallows as he remembers every one. All Souls Cemetery is an apt title
for the graveyard founded in 1832. He travels slowly through the woodland, a
haunt himself, a lost soul, his eyes scanning the odd and varied sculptures
that mark tombs and graves. A group of winged angels catches his attention, causing
him to stop and linger. He knew the woman buried here.
Gibson, born 1854; died 1872.
She had been
eighteen when she met her untimely end. Mary had been obsessed with Angelus; thought
him an Angel. She must have babbled her obsession to her family before her
Angel killed her. He swallows again, and the taint of remembered blood
surfaces. He moves on, remembering why he likes the New World so. At least
there he has no reminders of the halcyon days of the demon he was.
curse and the scent of fresh blood give Angel direction. He sprints across
grass and stone, spying two dark shapes near the trees. Without a sound Angel
attacks, knocking a vampire flying. Its victim falls to the ground and it is
then that Angel notices the other vampire kneeling next to a woman, her skirt
up around her waist.
With a growl,
both vampires surge to their feet, attacking Angel from both sides. He ducks,
and sends a fist into a face, and kicks out with one long leg and hits the
other in the gut. The fight is brutal. Angel feels his teeth elongate as both
vampires attack again. Fists and fangs, the ballet of death unfolds as Angel
ducks and weaves. They trade blows and all three grunt as blood is drawn. The
ensouled vampire is determined and the others are not as old. His experience
and strength win out and Angel’s stake thuds home, twice.
The dust is
still airborne as Angel goes down on bended knee to see to both victims. He
breathes a sigh of relief to find that both are alive, the male has been bitten
and is bleeding from the neck. He draws back as the tantalizing aroma of hot
blood reaches his nose. He jerks away in revulsion, a growl rumbling deep in
his chest as his desire to lap at the life force surges within. Angel sprints
across the cemetery to a phone box he had spied earlier on in the street, his
self-loathing spurring him on. The phone works and he is surprised. He makes
the call, and stays to watch over his charges until he hears the sirens
sounding in the distance.
himself from the graveyard, Angel wanders down Harrow Road without any
particular destination in mind. It is liberating to be back in a large city,
free to move about where one is unrecognized, blending in with the mass of
humanity. The night is late and the air chill, and yet there are still people
out, braving the elements. He gazes at the shops and houses he passes, avoiding
eye contact with the people going about their business. He turns a corner and finds a group of
people milling about on the footpath. Angel looks up to see a sign that
indicates he is outside a nightclub, the hours never too late for such a venue.
A man and woman, arms about each other, trail a group of young men out for an
evening of fun. Angel mingles and slips unnoticed into the club, the bouncer at
the door not even aware.
noise is horrendous and Angel wishes he were without preternatural hearing. He
flinches and blinks at the laser lights stabbing the smoky interior. The music,
and he wouldn’t call it that, pounds out over a packed dance floor. However,
the vampire keeps the couple in his sight and he follows, weaving through the
crowd. Hands clutch at him, hips gyrate and still he manages to slip through.
The couple split up and Angel decides to follow the woman.
one of the young men, but before she can speak, Angel has his arm around her
waist and pulls her away.
glares at him sensing what he is. “Go find your own kill,” she hisses.
carry them away and they bump up against a wall, her body flush with his. He risks a quick glance; they are relatively
alone in a dark corner.
“I will,” he
hisses back and dusts her, his eyes flat and emotionless.
is next and he has targeted a young girl seated at the bar. Angel moves to the
counter and deliberately bumps into the other vampire.
mutters, not sorry at all.
good-looking vamp, glares at him and turns his attention back to the girl.
Angel resists the urge to stake him then and there; instead he orders a drink
for the both of them.
drink…on me” he says to the turned back.
swings back and looks him over. The eyes gild for a brief instant. “Leave me
“Come on…I won’t
bite.” Angel paints his face with Angelus’ smirk and the other vampire
He freezes the
girl out and he swivels around to Angel. “What’s the deal?” he asks as the
barman places two whiskeys on the counter. Angel waits while the girl flounces
away. She isn’t happy but he doesn’t care about that, she is alive and that is
all that matters.
his glass and downs the drink. “Your girlfriend over there,” he jerks his head
in the direction of the dance floor, “wanted me to give you a message.”
vampire looks into the crowd but can’t see his girlfriend. He picks up his
glass and takes a sip.
“Yeah and why
don’t I believe you?”
Angel has his
full attention. The former Scourge of Europe makes a face and straightens his
upper body indicating he is going to leave. “Do you want the message or not?”
other vampire holds up a hand, finishes his drink and asks, “What is it?”
The barman has
his back turned - their reflections are not in the mirror - patrons are not
looking their way and Angel leans close. The other leans forward to hear. Angel
pats the vampire’s chest as he whispers, “she said she’ll see you in hell,” and
his stake slides smoothly into its heart. He sits back, brushing dust off his
sleeves. He looks at his empty place in the mirror and wonders if there is
blood on his face, the smell tickles his nostrils. His fingers stray to his
cheek and -
- The barman returns, glancing at his glass.
“Another” he starts to ask, and something in Angel’s eyes makes him retreat,
He sits for a
long while, staring at, but not seeing the room behind him in the mirror. The
barman leaves him alone, but he is never ignored. He is calm when he heads for
the bathroom to wash up, disturbing the nefarious business taking place in the
dingy corner. The two men exit quickly thinking he is undercover. Angel
certainly looks mean enough, even with his head in the basin, and as he leaves,
he scans the crowd for vampires and senses none. Angel is glad to be out of the
club, all that noise and humanity, writhing within, waiting to be tasted.
mind, the wee small hours of the morning had been a drag, literally. She had
dozed but the floor was uncomfortable, and the moans of the old building and
those of the ghouls are not conducive to a fitful sleep.
this Horse and Donkey place, Giles? Can’t we go there and come back when it’s
daylight?” she says suddenly, startling the Englishman into wakefulness.
You…woke me!” Giles knuckles his eyes before picking up his glasses; he squints
at his slayer as he places them on the bridge of his nose.
it, Giles? A clean, cosy, bed and breakfast at the Horse and Donkey?”
“Horse and Groom,
Buffy.” He turns his wrist to see the face of his watch. “It’s too late or too
early to go knocking on doors. We’re stuck here for now. Besides, the demon may
show itself at any moment.”
better show up soon,” Buffy grumbles behind a yawn “Did you have any luck with
to shake his head, glancing at his books, open on the floor. A page lifts as if
carried on a breeze and slowly settles again.
He holds up a
hand as again the paper rises. Buffy tenses. She sees the movement and although
the mansion is draughty, she doesn’t think that a natural breeze is the cause.
Her hand reaches for a stake. Another page lifts, and then another, until the
pages are a flurry of paper, flicking rapidly through the text. The Englishman
eases to his knees and crawls carefully towards his bag. Buffy stands, ready to
strike. The scattered remnants from the scrying class rise and, as if a mini
whirlwind has sucked them up, they begin to spin. Buffy’s skin prickles into
gooseflesh as an eerie scream reverberates. Giles has in his hands a small net
when he comes to his feet. She raises a brow but says nothing; her eyes are on
the debris that is now hurtling towards them. Buffy and her Watcher do their
best to avoid the stinging blows but cannot avoid them all. Giles’ glasses
receive a hit, sending them askew, bruising the delicate skin under his eye.
Buffy bats away wood from a chair that comes perilously close to her head, and
sees a shadow dart low against the wall. The knocking she heard earlier begins
anew, as do the tremors beneath her feet.
she hears Giles whisper as she creeps forward. He moves to her side as she
follows the shadow scuttling into a corner. The light from the lantern
illuminates the hunched figure when Buffy snares the lamp for a closer look.
does not know what it is. “It’s not all there,” she finishes before the thing
launches itself at her.
the lantern in a hurry and Giles manages to stop it from teetering over as she
defends herself. The demon has large teeth and clawed hands, and the claws are
within inches of her face before her fist slams it away. She smiles at the satisfying crunch of flesh
against flesh. It scrambles to attack again.
those? Ghost tentacles?” she asks when her foot slides through the spectral gut
of the creature, allowing it to gash her leg as she swings clumsily through the
Giles is ready
with his net, hoping to capture the demon. Buffy only wants it dead.
cost money,” she complains as she slams her fist into its jaws and the demon
lets out a howl and hits the floor with a thump.
the net as she races for her bag and snatches up a wicked-looking knife. The
demon is caught for only a moment because its body dissolves, allowing it to
slide through the nylon.
Giles backs up
giving his slayer room.
“I don’t think
this demon is the cause of all this paranormal activity. I think the haunts in
this place have been trying to catch our attention.”
got it didn’t they?” she pants as she thrusts and cuts at the snarling
“You can only
kill it in its solid form. Ignore the ‘ghostly’ parts.”
springs at her, jaws open wide. Buffy waits and jams her knife into its mouth
at the last possible moment. She feels the knife slide up and into its brain.
It hangs grotesquely on her knife, its form materializing whole and dead. She
flicks her knife and it flies off, thudding in a wet mess on the floor. The
room is still, the howls, and groans, and detritus, inert and silent. Buffy
relaxes at last, not unhappy that the demon is now a cooling dead thing. She
moves away to find something soft to clean her knife.
forward and kneels for a closer examination.
“I think the
spirits of this place were terrified of this demon.”
terrified of demons? I thought that they did the haunting, the spooks, I mean,”
she says wiping her blade with a rag.
He pokes a
finger at the tentacles and prods the suckers there.
“This demon is
both corporeal and incorporeal. The suckers here would only be able to attach
to a thing that was in the same state: incorporeal. This may be a demon that
eats the energies of the spirit world.”
“So, what are
you saying? That this thing eats ghosts? Sucks the life out of a spirit, if you
can call it life?”
“Yes, that is
exactly what I am saying, Buffy. That is why the spirits here attracted our
this place and trying to hurt us? Some attention…and why did I kill this demon
again? Other than it was trying to kill me, it was getting rid of the spooks in
this place, isn’t that a good thing?”
and moves back to Buffy who is now picking up their gear and packing it away.
He helps her and explains further.
“The demon was
eating spirits; maybe it lives that way, feeding on their energies.”
about it, would you want to be devoured, swallowed into the stomach of a demon,
gone forever? Digested into heavens knows what?”
“Ghosts are ghosts
aren’t they? They are already dead; wouldn’t they be glad to be gone from this
blankets are stuffed into a bag, as are the books. Giles rescues the tomes and
his bag from Buffy’s irreverent hands and places them with more care into the
necessarily. They still have a presence; a part of them exists on this plane.”
He peers over at her and adds, “Because one is dead doesn’t mean to say that
you don’t have a role to play in this world.”
sorting through her bag and gazes into her friend’s eyes. “Angel.”
He nods and
continues. “Imagine if a creature such as this were to suck out his *life*
force or maybe in Angel’s case, his soul.”
name hangs between them, more frightening than anything they have encountered
snakes up her spine, and she really is grateful that Angel is safe and away
from here. The demon is small and would not have been a threat - probably - but
Buffy cannot help but think that bad things always happen when you least expect
it. She is relieved that the opportunity did not arise.
She misses him
and wonders what Angel is doing.
nursing his second drink of the night.
stumbled across the demon bar, or rather, stumbled into a vampire that was
leaving the bar during his foray about the city. After lurking outside and
dusting another three, he decided to venture inside and see for himself. The
establishment was dark and seedy - no surprise there - and was populated by an
assortment of demons that were enjoying a quiet drink and even quieter
conversation. The demon barman offered him blood as soon as he glanced in his
direction. Angel’s gaze scanned the obligatory mirror before he declined.
He asked for
whiskey instead, and now here he sits at the end of the bar, his back to the
wall, his glass half full. The trinket in his coat pocket reminds him of his
ride home. He has a small gift for
Henry’s wife. An inexpensive bauble found in a dozen places, important, all the
same. He remembers giving his first, in an alley, to a girl. Hers was costly
silver. He sighs and wonders if he is
to spend the day in the sewers.
playing cards in the corner raise their voices and he watches from under
lowered lids. The cards spin through the air as one of the demons roars out a
protest in a spray of saliva, his tusks curved and glistening. The other two
find their feet, the pus demon - and that is what it reminds Angel of - flashes
a knife. Demon three is backing away, its long ears hanging back in fear. The few
patrons that are left back away as the fight ensues.
rests his drink and slides off his seat. The demon lunges with his knife; his
hand meets an immovable object, the vampire’s fist. Angel twists the wrist,
hears the bone snap, and pushes the ugly son of a bitch out of his way. Tusk
demon attacks and Angel kicks him in the knee and stomach, and finishes him by
slamming him into the wall. Paint and plaster flake to cover the crumpled form
as the vampire turns and punches the screaming, though determined, demon hard
in the head, and throws him towards the door.
He shrugs his
shoulders and brushes at his coat and resumes his seat. A door opens at the
back and a huge demon enters, one hundred pounds at a time. Angel downs his drink
and waits. The other drinkers quietly shuffle back to their seats, ignoring the
bulk of the newcomer and the senseless riff-raff on the floor.
lowers its head and eyes the bodies.
happened?” his deep voice rumbles and Angel wonders who his tailor is. The
material stretches across acres of back, a tent would be made of less.
growls a reply. “A fine time to visit the john, Vinnie. This gentleman took care of it.”
turns and his red eyes glower at Angel.
“It’s a vamp!”
he grumbles at the lack of Angel’s reflection.
these two, will ya? Go on! Be quick about it.” The barman shoos the bouncer
away and sidles over to Angel.
sir,” he says and taps the counter. “Are you sure I cannot interest you in a
glass of blood?”
something – and he doesn’t know what it is, other than this vampire had stopped
a fight and not started one - makes him offer, “We have animal.”
looks hard at the barman, and considers.
“The name is
Morty, and I do apologise for Vinnie’s lack of manners.”
Angel is tired
and hungry. He gives in and inclines his head.
to the cooler and pours a long glass of blood. He places it before the vampire
and catches the flare of nostrils.
“You get a lot
of vamps in here?” Angel asks before he swallows the cold, lifeless, but
“I don’t sell
human, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
They both ignore
the grunt of pain that emerges from tusk boy as he is expelled into the early
bother to inform Morty that he has four less customers and finishes his meal.
“Do you need a
bed this morning? I know a place, run by a demon woman, name of Kim. It’s in
the next street, not far; you’ll make it before dawn.”
surprised at the offer. His face doesn’t show it, and he watches Morty pull a
card from the rag-tag collage tacked to the wall. He slides the dog-eared scrap
across to the vampire.
memorizes the legend inked there and slides it back. Leathery fingers pinch up
the paper, and return it to its spot on the wall.
Angel’s hand searches his pocket and Morty smiles, his small fangs more comical
money away. It’s on the house.”
stares at Morty, and thinks the demon should be a shade of green. The thought
brings melancholy, and suddenly, he wishes he were away from here. He wonders
how Buffy is doing.
The return of
Vinnie and his animosity, spurs him into action, and he rises from his stool.
taken two steps when Morty calls after him. “Tell Kim that Morty sent you.
She’ll see you right, mister…?”
He smiles for
the first time in hours.
And he’s gone
in a whirl of black wool.
Woodchester Mansion is situated in Woodchester Park, in Stroud. The events I
have described have actually been recorded.
There is a
grave in Kensal Green Cemetery that belongs to
Gibson, born 1854; died 1872. She is an
unknown person so I used her shamelessly. To see her monument go here: http://www.xs4all.nl/~androom/index2.htm
information on All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green can be found here:
about The Wyrd Tree scrying classes.