Sword (Part Two)
Summary : At the end of Part One, we cruelly
left Angel helpless, Giles clueless and Buffy wanting to hit something.
What is the dastardly Francis planning? What’s the importance of the
Monument to the End of Time? Where does Angel’s tattoo come in? And
what’s this about a date?
Buffy stood on the corner of West End and Doggetts Lane, looking doubtfully at
the doorway in front of them.
“A demon bar
was incredulous. Giles’ voice was
perhaps more weary as he looked at the blackboard on the pavement.
having Happy Hour in, oh…” He looked at his watch. “Five minutes.”
starts now,” Buffy muttered, taking the single stride to the wood and
etched-glass door. Giles heard the
crack as the lock broke.
alone on this Sunday evening, standing with his back to the door. He looked round as Giles stepped down the
two shallow stairs and across the wooden floor, its nightingale notes
accompanying his every step as he threaded his way through the tiny cast iron,
glass-topped tables and the flimsy round-bottomed chairs, inappropriately
cheery in their Wedgwood-pink dralon upholstery. Buffy took position just inside the door. The sign hanging from the doorknob still
announced the bar to be Closed, and she left it like that.
“We’re not op…
Oh. It’s you.”
“Hello, Travis. I don’t think I’ve seen a yuppy demon wine
there wasn’t enough money in the demon trade, especially with a slayer in the
village. There were never more than one
or two a night, mainly passing trade.
Can’t make a living out of that.
It’s all human trade now. Plenty
of trippers staying around here in the season.
We do snacks, too. Pannini,
stuff like that. Can I get you
something? On the house?”
you, Travis. All you can give me is
expression turned sulky.
“I don’t know
anything. No demons, no information.”
with studied patience.
only reason I’ve left you alone is because you occasionally give me
information. If you can’t help me, then
I’ve no reason to leave you alone anymore, have I? Now, my friend is missing, along with several corpses. Tell me what you know.”
“Nothing. I don’t know nothing.”
lashed out and gripped the front of Travis’ shirt. Almost faster than the eye could follow, Giles smashed Travis’
nose onto the counter, pulled him partway over, and then cracked his elbow into
the man’s cheekbone.
“Tell me what
“Nuddin’. I don’t know nuddin’!”
cracked in hard again, twice. The
patient tone was now terrifying.
“This is my
friend that we’re missing, Travis, and you know how I don’t like my friends to
be in trouble. But, it’s her
boyfriend. She’s even more testy about
it than I am.” He looked meaningfully
towards Buffy. “Would you like us to
change places? Let her ask the
to splutter, but Giles continued as if he’d made no sound at all.
“Me? Well, I’m inclined to think that we should
take advantage of your cooking facilities to serve you up your own intestines
in a nice béchamel sauce…”
was shocked and, from his position sprawled across the counter, Travis looked
up at her gratefully.
“We don’t have
time for sauces. Just rip out his
intestines, Giles, and feed them to him!”
smiled. If Travis had been in a
position for comparisons, he would have thought that it was a smile that
belonged to Angelus, not the mild-mannered librarian. Even Ripper had never worn a smile as disarmingly ferocious as this
He found it
hard to speak, and had to spit out a tooth and a gobbet of blood before he
some excitement lately, but none of them were willing to share. Then these guys came in a couple of weeks
ago, humans and demons together. They
said nothing to me, I swear, and they didn’t let me overhear much, but everyone
else skipped town after that. There
have been no demons in since that night.
That’s when I gave the place a makeover. There’s been nothing since then.
His voice was
rising in pitch, rising in panic.
Giles’ voice was silky, his expression bland.
“But you did
that this year was the year, the once in a thousand year chance, and it was
going to happen this time, the biggest thing ever. Then they saw me and they shut up. I heard they’d come after some guy from Hendaye, though. Been scoping things out, expecting him,
maybe even followed him. I never saw
him, though, least not so’s I know.”
“Hendy? Just off the M4? Wales?”
don’t think so. They pronounced it
Hendaye. And they’d caught a smuggling
boat, and had to come ashore at Porlock.
Wherever they were going, they were making their way east from here.”
be on a smuggling boat from Wales…” Giles was musing almost to himself. “Hendaye… Hendaye…” His elbow lifted.
nothing else. I swear it! Nothing at all!”
Travis back to the far side of the counter.
“If you hear
anything else, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t tell me. Straight away. You would, wouldn’t you?”
vigorously, drops of blood flying onto his white shirt and the glowing brown
woodwork. As satisfied as he could be,
Giles turned back to the door. As they
left, a young couple stood outside, uncertain.
The young man addressed him.
“Is it open
yet? We were looking for something to
at his watch again.
“He’s had a
bit of an accident, he said, so he won’t be open just yet. It’s just gone five. You could try the little tea shop in Market
Square. It’s the one called The Cheese
Wring. Pottery and souvenirs on the
ground floor, tea shop upstairs. They
do nice things on toast at tea time.”
As they drove
back to Summerdown House, Buffy tried to think of something other than the
missing Angel. He could take care of himself, damn it, and she should trust him
to do that!
“So, that will
be one less informant for us?”
“Why would you
think that, Buffy? Between you all, you
managed to beat Willie up for information more than once, and he stayed around. What?
You thought I didn’t know about that?
Tsk! I had a go at him a couple
of times, myself.”
at the thought of that.
“Now that he’s
changed his clientele, there’ll be no more demon informants for Travis,
you think,” Giles scoffed. “He’s got
extensive cellarage under that bar.
He’ll just move his less human visitors downstairs. So far as I know, there are no resident
demons in Westbury – and I believe I would know – but there’s a lot of
power around here - in the ley lines, in parts of the landscape, in some of the
old monuments. That attracts
transients. They all know about
Travis. We’ll be able to use him
He turned his
thoughts back to what they’d been told.
There was something there… Something he should have made links with…
Once more, the thoughts skittered back into obscurity.
“What was this
Hendrix place he mentioned?”
As Buffy asked
the question, Giles was distracted by a gaggle of tourists who almost ran into
his path, and he answered without thinking.
“Hmm? Oh, Hendaye. Place in France. It has a
famous artefact – a cross. It was what
Michel Benoit and I corresponded about for a while…”
He turned to
Buffy in horror.
“Why didn’t I
think of that before? I remember it so
Even as he
said the words, the thoughts started to evaporate, like water on desert sands.
something is interfering with our memories and perceptions. It’s as if there were a ‘don’t see me’
spell. We need to go back to the
mortuary as soon as it’s dark.”
He drove home
much more quickly, then. Once there,
Giles collected the necessary supplies and made charms. There was rosemary for remembrance, pansy
for thoughts, sage and hawthorn for protection, and some more esoteric
items. He murmured a few words to
activate the ingredients and then divided the mixture between two muslin
bags. His own he put into his shirt
pocket, over his heart. Buffy wrapped a
piece of black cord around the neck of hers and wore it as a necklace, the
little bag stuffed down into the neck of her blouse. It was as if she had been given back half her brain, without her
ever having been aware that it was missing.
“Can you think
clearly?” Giles asked her.
she approved. “Let’s see if I can find
He shook his
“I’m sorry, it
doesn’t work like that. The charm
creates a…a ..personal bubble free of the magical interference. The spell started with Angel himself, I
think… I imagine they’ve done this with each stolen body… but it will still be in
place, so you won’t be able to reach further than the extent of this protection
proved. Giles had to find another
crystal to replace the one that Buffy had shattered, and he’d made a mental
note to ask John to re-plaster that piece of wall, but this new, rose quartz
crystal performed no better than the last.
The research went better though.
disappeared into the loft, and came back with a shoebox covered in dust and
small pieces of plaster, fallen from the roof slates. Written on the outside, in his firm lettering, was ‘Hendaye –
They sat in
the breakfast room, and Giles spread photographs and documents out on the
table. He sorted through them and
extracted a few before gathering the rest back into a pile.
“Buffy, you need
to understand a little of the background of this. I’ll try to keep it brief.
Hendaye is in the far south-west of France, in Basque territory that was
troubled for centuries. Go any further,
and you’re in Spain. This cross was
originally placed in a graveyard, probably in the mid 17th century,
and then it was moved to a rather prominent place in the village, for reasons
“It’s to do
with something we know quite a lot about…eschatology…”
interrupted, utterly indignant.
“Giles! Wash your mouth out! I have never eaten…”
ex-Librarian, ex-Watcher gave her a grim little smile.
Buffy. You’re thinking of
scatology. And in any event it would be
scatophagy. Eschatology is the study of
the end of the world. The Apocalypse.”
subsided. That was definitely something
she knew about. All three of them
did. Satisfied that she was listening,
religions have a view that the world will end.
Some of the ancient peoples, the South American civilizations, for
example, thought that it would end rather often, in the grand scheme of
things. The Maya, for one, believed in
cycles for the Earth, in cycles of time.
They thought that the Earth had already passed through several different
Ages, and each Age ended in its own unique way – fire or flood or ice or what
have you. They thought that some of
mankind survived, but were changed, different.
A bit like Noah’s Flood, but rather more apocalyptic. Their calendar ends in 2012, and many
commentators have interpreted this as meaning that after then, there would be
no more time to measure.
called McKenna postulated a fractal time wave theory that, at the end of the
Mayan calendar, there would occur an omega point of infinite novelty, during which
anything and everything conceivable to the human imagination would occur
simultaneously, and time would end.”
seems to describe my life most days, but Giles, the monument, please, before
even Angel expires of old age!”
Right. This monument is said to be
something of the same, to be a warning of the ending of the present Age. It’s been called ‘The Monument to the End of
Time’ and has been the subject of endless speculation, mainly by people who
should write with nothing sharper than a crayon. And the Watchers’ Council treated it with academic disdain,
although I rather think their Most Secret department kept an eye on going
“The man who’s
dead, Michel Benoit, corresponded with a few people, including myself. He was an archivist by profession, but he
was particularly interested in Apocalyptic literature and artefacts. I was one of the people he wrote to.”
“If he was
into apocalypsi, he should have joined the team years ago,” Buffy
muttered. “Giles, I get all this need
to understand the background, but what does this have to do with missing
bodies, and found bodies, and Angel?
Especially with Angel?”
“I don’t know,
Buffy, but we’re going to find out.
Michel, the last I heard, didn’t live in Hendaye. If we assume that he must be the man
referred to in that conversation that Travis overheard, then he must have been
to Hendaye before he came to wherever he was killed. He had a full photographic and written record of the cross
already. Therefore, he must have gone
for a purpose that we can only speculate about. So, let’s get facts before we speculate.”
“Do you think
he was coming here to see you?”
about Buffy’s question for a few moments, before replying.
“I think we
must assume so. Michel and the cross
and the bodies and this thousand year opportunity – they have to be
connected. If they aren’t, then…”
He didn’t need
to finish. If those things weren’t
connected, then they were barking so far up the wrong tree that they might never
find the right one in time. Buffy
shuddered at the prospect. She thought
of Angel, alone, without any sort of help or back-up, and was only dimly aware
that Giles was speaking again.
“It’s been a
very long time since I looked at this, and so much has happened since then that
I can’t remember it very well, so let’s work through it. Shall we do that together? We’ve got a couple of hours until sunset,
and I don’t want to go back to the mortuary until it’s dark. How about it – let me talk you through it
and see what we can divine?”
that Giles didn’t really need her for this, but was giving her something
productive to do in this hiatus. She
well. The cross has three components –
there’s the upper part of the cross, the pillar, and the base. The parts don’t really look as though they
belong together, and that may be a clue…”
He pulled a
photograph from the small sheaf of papers that he had extracted from the
box. Buffy saw a Roman-style pillar,
mounted on a rectangular base, and topped by an inscribed cross that looked as
if the lower part of it had been replaced at some time. It stood in front of what appeared to be a
typically Mediterranean whitewashed house, surrounded by small neat
flowerbeds. The brilliant red geraniums
and the white, sunlit wall gave it a feeling of cheerfulness, of normality,
which was odd for something that was supposed to mark the end of time.
polishing his glasses, his naked gaze abstracted, and she could tell that he
was ransacking his memory for important points.
itself is inscribed on one side with INRI.
Now, if you leave aside the normal Christian context here, the
inscription has been given a number of different esoteric interpretations. The one that Michel favoured, so let’s start
with that, is that you could view this as the initial letters of the Hebrew
words for Water, Fire, Earth and Air – the four elements – take the Egyptian
gods who have been held to embody those elements – Isis, Apophis, Osiris and
Isis again – and find a cycle represented there, by the primary aspects of
those gods. A cycle of Life, Death,
Resurrection and New Life…”
thought, that’s what’s happened to Angel. More than once. Does this mean he’s in more danger than we
thought? Is he a part of this? She tried hard to concentrate on what Giles
was saying, to force down her fears for her lover.
“… and that’s
the first reason why it’s been considered Apocalyptic. Moreover, on the opposite side are two X’s,
stacked one on the other…”
closely at the photograph.
“And yet I can
see only one… Perhaps the top piece of the cross has been broken – I’ve never
seen it, myself – but Fulcanelli, the alchemist and magician, specifically
pointed it out and thought it a reference to the twentieth card in the Tarot
pack, the XX. The Last Judgement.”
ached with the need to tell Giles to shut up, to hurry up, to just get to the
bottom line. She kept her mouth shut,
though. Giles wasn’t wasting time, or
lecturing for the sake of it. The last
time he’d looked at these archives was over a decade ago. He was rifling his memory as fast as he
could, and what he was saying simply marked the synthesis of memory with what
was happening in the here and now. If
she tried to hurry him, it would only break his chain of thought, and slow him
down. Her fingernails dug into her
palms though, with the effort of concentration. The time when spring turned to summer had, for her and for Angel,
always been the time for apocalypses, apocalypsi, and she’d no idea why she’d
thought that this year might be different.
She needed to learn as much as she could. So, she trowelled a patient expression onto her face, and
more intently at a photograph.
perhaps he meant this – see? The X of
the second inscription is aligned beneath the single X. Hmm…. Write this down.”
as he spelled out the letters of the inscription.
‘OCRUXAVESPESUNICA’, or ‘O CRUX AVES PES UNICA’. On the face of it, ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope’. There’s a lot written about transposing
letters, making SPES into SEPS, which means snake, and making UNICA into UNCIA,
which means 12th part, and they’ve talked themselves into thinking
that it refers to the serpent pattern that you get mathematically from the
equinoxes and the solstices…”
“Giles! English, please!”
“Oh, well, in
short, that you can divine a date from all this. I’m surprised they didn’t say put an ‘I’ in AVES and birds become
our only hope…”
“A date? A when date? When like now? Remember
what Travis said. Once in a thousand
years. Tell me that’s really not going
to be now!”
“Well, it’s a
thousand to one chance, then. I can’t
get much from the pillar – that’s variously the world tree, the backbone of
Osiris, the galactic meridian, and other such rubbish…”
Giles! The date!”
“Oh! Right, just a minute… I’m sure it must be
here somewhere… Let’s look at the pedestal first, perhaps…”
Buffy sat back
in her chair, her arms crossed in a position of unmistakable irritation, but
she held her peace. As if he had her
whole attention – and despite her body language, he was sure that he still did
– he pulled out some photographs.
has carvings on all four sides. There’s
an eight-pointed star; a moon, with a human face, in its last quarter; and a
very angry sun face with a six-pointed star in each corner. Not at all Christian symbolism, are they? There’s disagreement about what these might
be, but they might each represent one of the Tarot cards, the Star, the Moon
and the Sun, in which case, the fourth side might well represent card XX, The
Last Judgement. Now, where’s that one and what will it tell us…”
He laid down
the photographs in his hand. The Star
he placed to the east, the Moon to the north, the Sun to the West. Then he hunted among the papers and found a
fourth photograph. With a gathering
frown, he laid it to the south. Buffy’s
hand flew up to her mouth as she gasped in shock. The fourth photograph was of a carved oval, filling the whole
side of the pedestal, and divided into four equal parts by a cross. Each quarter of the oval contained an ‘A’,
carved with the crosspiece of the letter not straight, but broken into a
hell. I’d forgotten that.”
Angel had lain
undisturbed for the entire day. He knew
that it was only an hour or two until sunset, and he really wanted to be mobile
by then. So far, ‘mobile’ meant that he
could blink, and maybe lift a finger, but that was about it. He’d been running through every form of
release spell that he knew, and the results so far weren’t encouraging. He tried to relax, and dug deeper into his
memory. Magic was a contract of
sorts. It always required some
consideration, a payment to give value to the transaction, and so he dug the
nail of that one capable finger into the meat of his palm so that a little
blood would flow onto the white chalk floor.
Then he started the next silent incantation, calling on the powers of the
Earth, hoping that they could hear despite his lack of voice.
with Joshua cuddled close into his side, dozing. Francis, satisfied by the spirit they had raised and clothed in human
flesh, had allowed him to wait out the rest of the time until the ceremony
here, with the boy. Francis had even
allowed him to bring the sword, and it lay on the floor next to them, wrapped
in its sheath of cloth. The boy was
still chained to the wall, his ankle rubbed red and raw from the chafing of the
iron ring. Philip had managed to wrap
his tie around the rough metal to cushion it, but Joshua was still in
here for days now, and the boy had spent most of that time alone in this
chamber, close to the bodies of those fated for the next transformations. He’d cried himself out, though, and spent
most of his time in a half doze, escaping from this harsh reality. A guard, one of the minor initiates, had
been in to see them perhaps an hour ago, bringing food and drink. Philip didn’t think they’d be disturbed
again tonight. Tomorrow night: ah,
well, that would be different.
As he listened
to the boy’s shallow breathing, an occasional hitch showing his distress even
in sleep, he wondered whether Michel Benoit had understood his message, and
whether the Frenchman had remembered the existence of Rupert Giles, last of the
Watchers so far as Philip knew. Their
shared understanding might just be enough to foil the unholy plot that was
being hatched here.
wondered whether Francis had yet realised that he didn’t have the most
important requirement for the evil that he intended to raise. He had almost everything, but not
quite… That most important element was
gone, beyond the reach of Francis, unless he had learned a sort of magic that
no longer existed in this dimension.
Philip offered a few silent words of thanks to the spirits that Angelus
had apparently died in Los Angeles, two years ago. He’d breathed a sigh of relief when that truth had been revealed
to him. Without Angelus, Francis could,
and would, create a hell on earth, but mankind had prevailed over the demons
once, and could do so again. With
Angelus, Francis would succeed utterly, and wouldn’t be the only one to live to
As he mused,
he heard a soft scuffle from the far passage, the one leading to the cavern
where the bodies were stored. None of
the initiates was down there, only the dead, and Philip wondered whether the
cave harboured hitherto unseen rats or bats.
Francis would be most displeased if rats ate his bodies.
almost stopped, then, when a dark-haired man, a man who should surely be a
corpse, slithered on his belly, painfully slowly, into the dimly lit circle of
light cast by the low-wattage bulbs.
grandfather’s fear, perhaps, in that uneven heartbeat against his cheek, Joshua
roused, and tried to scream when he saw the apparition. Philip put a hand over his mouth until he
could be quieted, and then stood up, placing himself between the boy and the
man. His sword was in his hand, the
cloth wrappings and the scabbard discarded.
you?” he hissed.
The man had
difficulty in replying, forcing his throat and mouth to move with obvious
“I’ve come to
help. Can you take this thing off my
have to mean him! It could be a lot of
other things! A for Apocalypse, not
Angel. Besides, that A doesn’t look
exactly like his. It’s different.”
white with shock and her voice pleading.
Giles wanted to reassure her, but he needed the truth more. She always understood that, and she would
this crosspiece on the letter A is higher than on Angel’s tattoo, but that may
not be meaningful. Think of your Slayer
dreams, Buffy. Do you get exact detail,
or is it more of an impression?”
silent, seemingly transfixed by the photograph.
looking into the future isn’t an exact science. Think about it. If this cross
is really a warning, then whoever devised it lived long before Angel was born,
either humanly or demonly. And things
are far, far different now. It must
have been like looking down a long tube, getting a tiny piece of picture, and
then trying to put all those tiny pieces together, not helped by the fact that
you wouldn’t understand half of what you’d seen. Planes and trains and cars and skyscrapers and flushing toilets –
what would you make of them?
Ezekiel. Whether he had real visions,
back in the 6th century BC, or whether he’d just had one too many
bowls of magic mushroom soup, he was trying to describe something that was real
to him, but it comes out as incomprehensible wheels within wheels. He simply
didn’t have the vocabulary…”
Buffy felt a
lot like Ezekiel as Giles hesitated, and fell quiet.
“What is it,
Giles? What are you thinking? We haven’t got to worry about Ezekiel as
well, have we? Because you know that
we’ve got quite enough to worry about as it is…”
“No, Buffy, I
don’t think so. It’s just… well,
Ezekiel’s vision included four winged beings with four faces. They had the face of a man, of a lion, of an
ox and of an eagle. It’s the four faces
given to the Evangelists, hundreds of years later, and I was just wondering if
that was the meaning of the four A’s.
That Angel’s tattoo was one of four.
He has the winged lion, but are there another three… What has Angel told you about how he got the
tattoo, and what it means?”
“Nothing. We’ve never discussed it. Well, not like that…”
As she trailed
off, Giles the ex-Watcher looked up in astonishment, and for a brief instant of
time, his thirst for knowledge overcame his good sense.
must have had him naked any number of times now. What on earth do you two get up to when you’ve got his clothes
off? Don’t you ever just talk?”
watched the man and the boy carefully before making himself known to them. He had sensed a lot of emotions in that
chamber, but nothing that led him to believe that these were abductors of the
dead. The last spell, the spilled blood
and the incantation to the Earth goddess, had had a small but noticeable
effect. He’d managed to recover enough
control to crawl, albeit very slowly, and he’d worked out that the barrier was
contained in the little bag around his neck.
It was quite beyond him, though, to take it off. If one of these wouldn’t do that, then he
was, in the vernacular, stuffed.
The man stood
in front of the boy, uncertain but protective.
He might look like an elderly shopkeeper, but he still seemed to be
comfortable with the sword, an old fashioned broadsword, with a large knob of a
pommel to balance the weight of the blade.
It had taken every ounce of Angel’s strength to answer the man’s
question and ask for help, but it seemed that he hadn’t done enough to allay
suspicion. No surprise there, then.
“Who are you?”
his teeth and tried to activate those parts that produced speech. The words came out frail and reedy, and not
at all calculated to imbue confidence.
investigator, looking into stolen bodies.
He expected a
look of incredulity when he mentioned his name. Unlike its female counterpart, Angela, it was a particularly uncommon
name in Britain – so far as he could tell, it was currently unique to him,
despite being the name of the definitely unangelic husband in Tess of the
D’Urbevilles – and strangers always thought that he was taking a rise out
of them. This man didn’t think
that. This man blenched, and gripped
the sword tighter.
Here was a
turn up for the books. Feeling never
more helpless and vulnerable, Angel tried to ignore the sword.
more. Not for a long time.”
reaction was entirely unexpected. He sat down heavily next to the boy, who was
staring at the two of them, utterly confused.
He put his arms round the boy and held him close. Thin, silvery lines ran down his wrinkled
cheeks, tears that he let fall unchecked.
“Then we are
finished. It’s over.”
flaming cheeks waved the red flag of danger at Giles, and he in turn flushed a
Buffy. I can’t think why I said
that. Can we just start that bit
him for one long moment, and then suddenly burst out laughing. The sound of pure amusement was so
incongruous in all the fear and worry, and so very right, that Giles joined in
Giles. When we get him back, I’ll make
sure that Angel gives you a talk, man to man, about what people do with their
clothes off when they’ve spent years not being able to do it.”
It took a good
five minutes for them to regain their composure, but they felt all the better
mopped his eyes, Giles absently used the same handkerchief to clean his
glasses, leaving damp little streaks over the lenses. Buffy held out her hand for them, and gave them a quick polish on
the hem of her blouse. There was no
time to be wasted looking for clean handkerchiefs.
morosely at the pictures of the pedestal, and then picked up the photograph of
the cross at the top.
should put the ‘I’ in AVES and say that birds become our only hope…”
isn’t of a bird, Buffy. It’s the winged
“Yes, I know,
but according to you, the telescope of time isn’t all that exact. Perhaps they mistook it?”
the photograph around a little, as he explored his own thoughts.
“You might be
right. This belongs on the south side
of this arrangement, according to Benoit’s correspondence. It’s the position of Fire and Earth. Does that tell us anything?”
her head, but she silently thought that Fire and Earth seemed well suited to
Angel and his own particular circumstances.
Giles seemed to concur, and he changed the subject abruptly.
apocalypses has Angel faced now?”
“On his own or
with the Scoobies?”
we count Acathla? Because he did stop
that one…In a way…”
see her clench her fists beneath the table, but he heard the tension in her
voice. He thought it best to pretend he
that really weird thing with Jasmine that he doesn’t like to talk about. And there was the one where he died in Los
Angeles… And there was last year…”
silent, and Giles couldn’t immediately find anything to say. When he had swallowed back the lump in his
throat and the anger in his heart, Giles ran his finger over the photograph, as
if he could feel the carved stone beneath its skin.
means the number of times that Angel has lived – has been born, so to
speak. He was born as a human, he was
born as a vampire, he was reborn as a souled vampire, and then he was literally
born again, thanks to the Coven. Or…
means that he has to face four Apocalypses before he faces this? Or perhaps we don’t count Acathla, and this
is a prediction for the fourth one. One
that might succeed, or …”
the prophecy that Angel had told her about, that he was critical to the success
of the Apocalypse, but that no one knew which side he would be on. Well, that seemed to be the story of Angel’s
life. He brought them about in some
helpless, hapless but very determined fashion, and then he stopped them. Perhaps that’s what the prophecy meant all
along. Except for the ones that she
herself precipitated, of course. Did
the prophecy still apply? Was this
something that needed Angel in order to be successful? Or did it need him to stop it? Or, as with the Acathla debacle, was he cast
in the roles of both Destroyer and Saviour?
to be thinking the same thing.
only scratched the surface of this thing, but most of those who’ve studied this
monument seem to conclude that it tells of the coming of a new age on Earth,
accompanied by hellfire, an end to the world as we know it. If Angel is key to whatever is happening,
then we’ve handed him to them. On a
Angel sat on
the ground next to Philip and Joshua, his arms wrapped around his knees. They were all silent. Philip had removed the gris-gris, and was
toying idly with the leather thong of the small pouch with one hand, while the
other was firmly wrapped around his grandson’s shoulders.
had asked for help, this elderly man had sat, crying without making a single
sound, for what had seemed like hours, leaving Angel paralysed and vulnerable
to anyone and anything. Eventually,
though, he had wiped his face and come back to the vampire.
“You died. In
Los Angeles. You brought down those
demons – for a little while.”
If Angel was
expected to lie, he decided to be a disappointment.
“Yes. I died
“Then why are
you here now?”
muscles and his throat were aching with the effort of speech, but he said as
much as he could.
back. The Coven. Hilda.”
The man had
looked carefully at him, then, but had asked no more questions. Instead, he had bent down and pulled the
little leather pouch over Angel’s head.
The paralysis had gone, as he felt freewill return to his body, but
Angel still hadn’t moved. The man’s
sword was pointed unwaveringly at his eye.
Until he tested his limbs after the long hours of confinement, he wasn’t
absolutely sure that he could move swiftly enough to avoid that blade.
“Why did the
Coven bring you back?”
that my work wasn’t finished. There was
still more for me to do. The Powers
That Be had told them so.”
The man gave a
grunt of disdain.
Be damned…You’re still a vampire?”
“Yes, but my
soul is fixed. I can’t be Angelus
The man had
laughed then, softly so as not to attract attention from those in the higher
caverns, but the sound of that bitter, mocking laughter had raised gooseflesh
on Angel’s soul.
“I wouldn’t be
too sure of that.”
poised, as if contemplating whether to use the sword, and then he’d backed off.
knew what she was doing. Get up. Unless you’re going to take on the entire body
of Initiates, then you’ll need to wear this for their next inspection, or
they’ll finish you off. I’ll deactivate
He’d sat down
then, next to Joshua who, with the resilience of childhood had ceased to be in
terror of what he’d thought was the living dead, and now was watching the two
older men, fascinated. Angel, not
wishing to loom over the pair of them, had seated himself a few feet away,
keeping the man between himself and the boy, so as to appear less of a threat.
The man had
allowed the sword to trail over his legs while he unscrewed the top of the
outsize pommel. Angel could see that
letters were engraved around the top part, worn but still distinct. As the man loosened the top, Angel could see
each letter in turn. There were five,
and when he’d shuffled them in his head to find the starting point, he felt his
even deeper doings than he’d been afraid of.
pommel was hollow, but not empty. It
contained something… something that acted like a liquid but looked like a
powder, and was a brilliant cherry-red.
The man took one small grain out on a tiny ivory spatula that he
produced from one of his pockets, and he dropped that into the gris-gris. Then he closed up the pommel of the sword.
“The spell has
been denatured now.”
at him carefully, sorting through long-ago memories. He’d never met this man, if he was right about who he was, but
he’d seen a woodcut once. The picture
resolved itself before the eye of memory.
The man in that primitive portrait had had this very sword, and looked
very much like the person holding it.
He took a
“Should I call
you Theo? Or Philip? Or did you keep Paracelsus?”
The man shook
his head briefly, glancing towards Joshua, but he didn’t try to deny it.
then, not sure what else to say. And so
they sat in silence for a few minutes, Joshua looking from one to the other,
uncertain of what had just happened, but sensing that an important truth had
It was Angel
who broke the silence.
what’s going on.”
Collins sat at
his desk, bracing himself to make a report on the current debacle. His Superintendent had summoned him, and
that could only mean one thing. Dennis
the Menace had caught on to what was happening. Collins had thought Superintendent Dennis Menzies had been too
busy with his convivial lunch at the Licensing Committee’s monthly
deliberations, and this evening’s shindig at the Vintners’ Association, to notice
the unusual amount of activity at the station.
He’d been wrong about that, clearly.
his hands through his hair. He’d got a
good record for results, the best in the West, really, but in this man’s force,
he guessed that you were only as good as your last result. This one was bidding fair to be a
catastrophe. Almost twenty-four hours
on, and there was no trace of the tracker.
It was entirely possible his civilian was dead.
He must have
been mad to agree to the suggestion – mad or desperate. And yet, Angel had seemed so serenely
confident. He’d known the man was…
different… after the dreadful affair at Corbett’s Farm. Different, and he thought, remarkable in
some indefinable way. And illegal, too,
he was now as sure as he could be, without actually speaking to
Immigration. He had no intention of
doing that. Not yet.
This affair of
the vanishing, and reappearing, bodies was going from bad to worse. No one else on the force would have
considered that there might be anything less than natural about it, and yet
he’d come to that conclusion rather quickly.
Mad or desperate.
how the blonde girl with another odd name – Buffy – had left Gavin standing as
she ran down that street to look for her vanished boyfriend, and wondered just
who these two were. He knew that the
Gileses had always been associated with a rum set of people. Nothing criminal, of course, they’d been
much too upstanding for that. Just odd.
And he knew
that Gavin disapproved of what he’d done in taking up the offer of help. He wondered briefly whether Gavin had
shopped him to the Superintendent, and immediately decided he was being
unfair. Dennis the Menace had enough
sources of his own.
He was just standing
up to take that long walk down the corridor when his phone rang. He snatched it up, praying for good
news. It was Forensics. They’d found something on the
Frenchman. In him, actually.
He almost ran
down the corridor, but not in the direction of the Superintendent. In fact, Dennis the Menace was forgotten
the when, Giles? How long have we got?”
back in the shoebox. Eventually he
pulled out a piece of yellow paper that had been folded in two. It had words written on the outside in a
careful hand. ‘The Precession of the
Equinoxes’. Inside was a drawing of two
concentric circles, divided by a horizontal axis labelled ‘Autumnal Equinox’ at
the left, and ‘Vernal Equinox’ at the right.
A vertical axis read ‘Galactic Centre’ at the top and ‘Galactic Edge’ at
the bottom. The circles themselves were
divided into twelve equal segments. The
signs of the zodiac were carefully drawn in, circling clockwise in one and
anti-clockwise in the other.
“Giles! I don’t need my fortune told! I want to find out where Angel is!”
silent, and Buffy restrained herself from a further outburst with increasing
difficulty. He studied the chart
carefully, and then sat chewing one leg of his glasses. Abruptly, he frowned.
“Giles! I want to hit something. I really, really want to hit something, but
I don’t want it to be you! What’s
“This is a
chart that Michel managed to derive from the Cross. It’s a process that happens over very, very long periods. About 26,000 years long.”
“Giles!” Buffy almost wailed. “We don’t have 26,000 years.”
“No, but look
here.” He pointed to one of the
divisions on the chart. “Thirteen
thousand years ago, the constellation of Leo was rising over the horizon on the
day of the Spring Equinox. Many people
think that the Sphinx dates back to then, the Lion on the ground, facing the
Lion in the sky. And perhaps, now, the
Lion on Angel’s back. But, the
constellations appear to move around, circling the sky, so that approximately
every 2,000 years, a different one rises on the Spring Equinox. You’ve heard of the dawning of the Age of
Aquarius? Well, 13,000 years ago, it
was the Age of Leo, and in another 13,000 years it will be the Age of Leo
“But see what
Michel has done here. He’s put a date
against Leo on the Spring Equinox, here on the inner circle, 10,958BC, which us
near enough thirteen thousand years ago.
And he’s put a date here, on the outer circle, by Aquarius. 2006AD.
Because constellations aren’t well defined in the sky, and their
boundaries aren’t clear, there are many different calculations as to when the
Ages change, but Michel thought it was 2006AD.
But it isn’t Aquarius that he was interested in – at least, I don’t
think it was. Look where Leo is.”
He pointed to
that end of the horizontal axis labelled ‘Autumn Equinox’.
exactly halfway through the cycle. Leo
becomes the sign ruling the horizon for the autumn equinox. That’s the time when the Earth is heading into
winter. The season of death. Appropriate, I suppose.”
the autumn equinox? Have we got time to
get ready for it?”
Buffy. But I seriously doubt that all
these abducted bodies – and Angel – will be kept hanging around until
“Giles! I need something a bit more definitive than
some time in this calendar year…”
He sat still,
his mouth slightly open, a far-off look in his eyes. Then he startled her as his fist smashed down onto the table,
making the coffee cups rattle.
Buffy. Damn it, I’ve been so slow… The calendar year didn’t always start in
January. Centuries ago, the calendar
year started in March, on the spring equinox.
If Michel’s calculations are right, and just now I really, really don’t
have time to check them, then the cross shows us that 2006AD is definitely the
year in question. Now, we just have to
find the exact date, but at least we know it started in March, not January. It can’t be as far forward as autumn equinox
– they surely wouldn’t be taking bodies this early. Summer solstice also seems too far away, I think.”
out of her chair, her arms wrapped around herself in an effort not to strike
out with frustration.
he just write this stuff down in plain English?”
was immediate and savage, the cod-American accent almost perfect.
Buffy, I don’t know. Maybe next time we
see him, we could ask his cold, dead body!”
compunction was just as immediate.
Buffy. I’m tired and worried, as well.”
around the table and put an arm over his shoulders.
Giles. We’ll find him.”
“Wait… The Star, in the Tarot, is equated with
Aquarius. Suppose Aquarius and Leo
point the way. The event starts with
the spring equinox and the old New Year, in March, that’s in Pisces, and is
finished by the autumn equinox in September…
The Moon equates to Pisces.
That’s a double sign, Buffy. Two fish, one swimming one way, one
swimming another. The dark and the
light of the soul.”
They both fell
silent as the weight of evidence clanged around them like falling
civilizations. Giles was the first to
“And the Sun
face in the Tarot is equated to Leo again.
But I can’t see a pointer to exactly when. We’re long past Pisces – that’s February to
March. Aquarius was even earlier, and
Leo isn’t until July and August.”
“I’m getting a
headache with this. I suggest that we
go back to the mortuary – the sun will have set by the time we get there – and
then, after an hour or so away, maybe some more of this will make sense to me.”
“What do you
want to do at the mortuary?”
“See if we can
track a spell.”
Francis is going to usher in a new Age, with fire and brimstone and
demons? That’s been tried before, you
know. We stopped it then, and we’ll
stop it now.”
the boy closer.
different. This has been foretold for
of what he’d once told Lindsey about foretelling, and how that had come back
eventually to bite him in the ass, with the loss of the promised shanshu. Now he could say it and be really
sincere about it.
everything you’re foretold.”
“When you first
crawled up that passageway, I thought of killing you. When I’ve finished, you may ask me to.”
“No. I won’t.
If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to try and keep my skin as
intact as possible. Whatever is going to
happen, we can find a way that doesn’t involve getting us killed.”
“You said that
your soul is fixed?”
want to take that sentiment under advisement.
Do you understand the properties of my laudanum?”
to the pommel of his sword.
“Well, I know
it wasn’t the tincture of opium type of laudanum used by the Victorians. It was something you came up with in the
1500’s. In its powder form, it was used
for renewing the body.”
“Precisely. It brings those bodies back to life.”
For the second
time that night, Angel felt his stomach lurch.
“It makes them
living humans again?”
betrayed him, full of painful eagerness.
Philip gave him a long look, and then shook his head.
“No. It won’t make you human. It restores the body to what it was, no more
than that. Once life is extinct, it
cannot work miracles. What it will do
is to make them living flesh, but they will have no soul, no reason, just base
animal instincts. They are to be
vessels to receive the spirits of the most powerful demons in Hell, to allow
them to incarnate in this dimension. If
Francis has his calculations and his rituals right, that is.”
“Where do I
come into this?”
something in Hell that is altogether more powerful than any of the others that
Francis will raise. It is their
master. It will take more than
Francis’s spells and magicks to bring that one across, and to keep it here in
the form of real flesh. Without that,
it will simply burn up any body that has been prepared to receive it.”
“You have a
soul and a demon, yes?”
“You know I
provide enough power to bring about that incarnation. One spirit alone would not suffice, but two…? I think that will do. Of course, both spirits will be completely
used up, destroyed. You still think
that I shouldn’t kill you? That your
death would not be more merciful to you and to the world?”
of Fred, and the annihilation of her soul by Illyria.
that under advisement. Now, when is all
this to take place?”
When they got
to the mortuary, the street was deserted, and the last oranges and purples were
fading from the western sky. The east
was already dark enough for what Giles had in mind, and the rest of the sky
would follow in a matter of minutes.
preparations were simple and swift. He
had a bag of powder – geranium for a gathering, ipomoea for binding, white
chrysanthemum for truth, enchanter’s nightshade for witchcraft and witch hazel
to acknowledge a spell. And a few other
bits and pieces of a darker nature.
He stood with
his back to the door of the mortuary, said the words of invocation to the
spirits of air and earth, and then scattered the powder in a wide semicircle
before him. A breeze sprang up, and the
powder drifted away.
“Now we wait.”
It wasn’t for
long. Gradually, a shimmer of silver,
like metallic moonlight, opened up before them in the east. The shimmer coalesced into a single pale
shaft. The ghostly trail pointed as
straight as an arrow, flashed once, and then was gone.
“If we go a
few miles, we can do that again, right?”
was filled with anticipation and hope, and he hated to quash it.
Buffy. We have a direction, but the
magic used is much stronger than mine.
We won’t get a result again. But
at least it’s a start.”
They got back
into Giles’ car, and Buffy pulled out the road atlas. The trail that they had seen led north-east. Giles ran a finger over the page, tracing
the path of the spell.
between here and Norwich, I’d say. At
least that will give Collins somewhere to aim for, to let him narrow down the
for his phone, and as he did so, it shrilled its own summons.
“Speak of the devil! We were just…”
course. We’ll be there in ten minutes.”
waiting for them in the courtyard, pacing like a caged bear. Lincoln was perched on the edge of one of
the stone cisterns, wearing a disapproving look.
bursting with the news.
“North-east. They took him to the north-east. Giles says on a line between Trowbridge and
voices chorused, ‘Norrich’.
should write things like you say them, then.”
Giles put his
key in the door and turned back to the policemen.
them through into the drawing room. The
safe room. No exotica. Against protests from Giles and Buffy,
Lincoln was despatched to make coffee.
Buffy, remembering Angel’s blood in the fridge, went into the kitchen
with him, producing mugs and coffee and sugar, and then pouring milk into a
milk jug before returning the bottle to the fridge. She stood in the doorway to the breakfast room watching him,
while they waited for the kettle to boil, then she pulled the door to, shutting
away all the papers they’d been working on, and carried the milk and sugar into
the drawing room.
wondered whether he’d closed the door to the breakfast room, with the pile of
papers about Hendaye, Collins pulled a plastic evidence bag from his
pocket. Inside was a piece of paper
that had seen much better days. It had
been folded into a tiny square, and even though it was now unfolded, the
creases were deep. It had been torn
untidily from some larger sheet, and there had once been writing on it, which
was now faded into scraps of letters.
The whole thing was stained and crumpled beyond the straight creases.
taken until now to find it?”
is a bit of a euphemism.” Collins
glanced at Buffy, but Giles nodded to him to continue.
swallowed it. It had gone beyond the
stomach and was in the gut. We’re lucky
there was anything left of it at all. I
think that whoever beat him to death was looking for this, and he died rather
than tell them. Or at least held out as
long as he could. We’ve no way of
knowing whether he gave them what they wanted.”
down at the floor in silence, remembering the mild-mannered Frenchman. He felt Buffy’s hand on his arm, and gave
her a thin smile.
on there legible?”
out another sheet of paper from his pocket, and scanned it.
nothing from the outer layers has survived, but there are a few fragments on
the inner layers. We’ve got something
that might be ‘Directions’ and then a few lines where we can make out nothing
but the occasional trace. Then there’s
a word that looks like ‘Headage’, and some unreadable words. The only other line we can make out is
probably ‘The Devil shot’. The rest is
too far gone.”
Giles held out
his hand, and Collins gave him both items.
Before he’d even looked at them, Giles muttered, “Hendaye, not
Headage. We were told that Michel came
here from Hendaye, and I think that’s right.
What did he find…?”
Lincoln came in with four mugs on a tray.
He put them down on a coffee table, but said nothing.
shot… Could the lab make nothing else out at all?”
“No. But Wykes, who’s very good indeed at his
job, said that if he had to guess, there were two other similar lines, before
what you say is ‘Hendaye’. It looks
like they were just notes, jottings, like you’d take a series of telephone
messages. All over the place.”
“There are places
called something like The Devil’s Shot… I wonder…” Giles looked up from the paper in the evidence bag. “I’m really
going out on a limb here, but the most likely scenario we can find is a ritual,
or event, that can take place only once in a thousand years. Maybe even less often than that…”
snorted, but Collins didn’t flinch.
“…If you were
to know of such a thing, how could you be sure that others like you would also
know where to gather, and at the right time?
You can hardly rely on the personal ads. You would leave clues in imperishable places, perhaps. Notorious places. I think that Michel found something that led him to Hendaye, and
that he was either on his way to the next place, or on his way here, for
help. If we can find what this Devil
Shot means, perhaps that’s where we should be looking.
we’ve got nothing better to go on. I
suggest that Buffy and I concentrate on that, and you try to find that
tracker. I’ll get the maps and we can
work out the exact direction Angel was taken…”
“How do you
know which direction they took him?”
Giles took a
“I think you’d
be more comfortable not knowing. Now,
the other thing that we need to narrow down is the date. Sometime between the equinoxes is as good as
we’ve got so far. Today’s date is…”
hesitated, Buffy glanced at the digital display on the sideboard.
just 6th April…dammit, that’s not right. Why do you guys switch everything round? 04.06 is 06.04…”
widened in sudden shock.
makes it 4th June…”
“ for another
hour or so… What? Giles? What is it?”
“I have the
date! 06.06.06. It can’t be anything else. Angel was right. And the dreams… It’s the
number of the beast. The once in a
thousand year date. Revelations tells
us that the Dragon is bound for a thousand years… ‘and after that he must be
loosed a little season’. And the date
comes under the sign of Gemini. The
blenched as the implications sank in, and Buffy clenched her fists. She was having no more evil twinning from
Angel, thank you kindly. Giles was
already thinking ahead.
“If it takes
place at midnight on 6th June, we’ve got 24 hours, give or take.”
aghast that they might be taking seriously what was clearly the nonsense of New
Age fantasists, but Collins didn’t cavil.
He turned to his sergeant.
the maps with Mr Giles and Ms Summers.
When we understand the projected route, you get everyone onto that line,
and make sure that they pick something up.
I’ll stay here to help. Keep in
remonstrated with him, worried that having an outsider here would hamper them
dreadfully, but even as he spoke, Collins was stripping off his jacket and
rolling up his sleeves. It was Buffy
who made the decision.
don’t care who knows what, and what we have to share, but let’s just get onto
laptop in here, Buffy. Very well, DCI
“Call me Ian.”
“…Ian. You can get onto the net and see what you
can find about Devil’s Shot or Devil Shot.”
“I’m not very
good at the internet…”
the time to learn.”
out to the car, a rolled-up map in his hand.
The DCI had run stark, staring mad.
Right from the word go, this case had been disappearing down the toilet,
and everyone was going to carry the stench of it.
He’d been told
that the Superintendent had gone incandescent when Collins had failed to appear
as summoned, to give his report. Only
the formal dinner at the Vintner’s Association had distracted him, but tomorrow
morning, well, that would be a different matter. The soft and smelly was really going to fly. He hadn’t been a sergeant that long, and he’d
prefer not to be on the receiving end when it hit the fan.
reached for the radio, and began to give the technicians their instructions.
“In 24 hours?”
ceremonies will start with the incarnation of the major Lords of Hell in the
hour or so leading up to that, and then they’ll go for the big one on the
stroke of midnight. The beginning of
the sixth day of the sixth month of the sixth year of the millennium.”
doesn’t know about me?”
“No. Francis has a talent for magic, but he is
impatient and shallow. He has no… no
application. He skimps the research. He gets things wrong. His trial incarnation failed because he
started with the body in the same circle as the summoned demon. The body was too badly burned to be usable.”
“I think that
must be the one the police found. That
explains a lot. But he’s doing it
second test went perfectly. He worked
out that he needed to use a vesica pisces…”
“The bladder of
“No. The oval formed by two overlapping
circles. It’s a very powerful figure.”
nodded. He remembered now.
managed to get his demon incarnated. They
were going to kill it – they summoned a very minor one, with not much power –
but they decided to keep it locked up somewhere in case they needed a spare
Angel had no
real doubts that he could fight his way out of the cavern system if he had to,
but what would that accomplish? He
wanted to catch them in the act, not have them scatter, to reconvene somewhere
else and start again, perhaps with better knowledge of what they needed to
truly succeed. Of who they
needed. But could they do that? He asked Philip the question.
“Yes. This is the most propitious date, and
someone as theatrical as Francis would be bound to choose it. But, they can get perfectly good results at
other times. There are prophecies,
warnings that have been left for those who have understanding of these
matters. But, they aren’t prophecies
that say this is the date when these rituals must be carried out. They are the result of visions, warnings
that this is what has been seen to happen on this date, unless those with understanding
can stop it. They are just ways of
communicating the danger, ways that will last through the centuries. The events aren’t inevitable. They aren’t destiny. They are just events on the calendar, that
can be changed.”
Angel knew all
about the changeability of destiny. He
tried to think of something else.
“We can’t be
sure that they’ll save me for last. It
might go better if they take me for one of the early incarnations. I could stop the thing before it gets
“You’re by far
the best of the bunch. Of course
Francis will save you until last. Only
the best for the Prince of Hell.”
That was cold
“Why are they
starting with dead men? Why are they
making you restore a semblance of life, instead of starting with living
up at the roof of the chamber in the earth, as if he could see something
through the 300 feet of rock and soil above him. It took him a while to answer, and Angel gave him the time.
stupid, by any means, but he is a fool.
He thinks that by doing this, the power of the demons will be weakened,
that he will have magic strong enough to control them, to make them do his
bidding. He has spent far too much time
as a follower of Aadlevaar. He believes
the things that are peddled in his Demonic Mysteries.”
“Is he right?”
“They will be
weakened, yes. For a few hours. Then they will be very angry indeed, but
they will have built up their full strength, and he and the Initiates will
suffer. If the Prince of Hell has left
anything of them to suffer, that is… Francis intends to summon him in one of
his less powerful aspects. He doesn’t
understand that an aspect is just that – an aspect. Once you incarnate the thing, you get all its aspects.”
at the thought. Philip kept his tone
“I could chop
your head off right now, you know. Then
there would only be the next level demons to deal with. Bad enough, but not impossible.”
“Will you stop
with the wanting to chop my head off?
We need a better plan than that… one that involves less chopping.”
at the sleeping Joshua, and then back at Angel, reminding him of the frailty of
mankind. Angel amended his last reply.
“Okay. But not yet.”
they had the Devil’s Jumps in Sussex, one Devil’s Stone in Devon, and another
in Dorset, the Devil’s Humps in West Sussex, the Devil’s Arrows in North
Yorkshire, and the Devil’s Quoit or Quoits all over the country. There were Devil’s Dykes and Ditches and
Mouths, a Bed and Bolster, a Ring and Finger, and a Den, all of which they put
to one side. Giles had ruled out
Devil’s anything in any other country but the British Isles, but somehow the
Devil’s Marbles in Australia had crept in, and so they had that, too.
some odd weathering and some standard-looking cup and ring marks, they all
seemed to be singularly inscription-free.
They had perhaps twenty individual targets, some more promising than
others, but none of which could be discounted, and none of which were called
the Devil’s Shot. Or the Devil
Shot. Or even the Devils Hot.
They had their
notes spread out in the drawing room, although the rest of the house was ablaze
with light, too, as Giles had ransacked each room for the texts that he rarely
needed to consult. Some of the books
that Giles and Buffy had used in the study were harmless enough, but Giles
wasn’t at all sure what the policeman would make of the rest of them. So, all the original source material stayed
in the study.
shuffled through the notes, Collins offered to make coffee. They were all flagging and needed a wake-up
shot. Buffy, once more thinking of
Angel’s blood in the fridge, was up from her chair before him. No good could come of him seeing that.
Giles was in a
quandary. As he was considering his
next actions, Zillah leapt lightly onto the table, and started batting at the
papers with her dainty black paw. Ari
sat nearby, watching her inscrutably.
Collins snatched at the endangered notes, as Giles lifted her down. She promptly hopped back up again, and the
notes started to slither around. He got
up, gave her a cuddle, and shooed both cats into the hall, closing the door
firmly on their indignant looks. Then
he went back to brooding. He didn’t want
the policeman here, poking into things that it was better he knew nothing
about, but he was rapidly coming to the conclusion that, for what he had in
mind, he needed Collins there. Buffy
and he needed to make a field trip.
But, which of these was the one to visit? They surely didn’t have time to visit all of them. And what were they looking for?
brought in their three mugs, they were startled by an unholy caterwauling in
the hall, as if the impatient devil had come to them. There was the thump of books hitting the floor, the slithering
noises of papers sliding from their appointed heaps, and the other, less
identifiable noises of Ari and Zillah playing a favourite game – who can get
around the room fastest without touching the floor. And they were in the forbidden room – the study.
When he got
there, the wreckage was as bad as he had feared. Everything that they had been working with was strewn across the
floor, all the carefully separated heaps now disordered and jumbled. The two cats sat in the clear centre of the
floor, washing each other. Giles bent
down to pick up the one book that lay open in that central space. The cats hadn’t been out for hours. There had been no rain for a week and the
ground outside was dry. Yet this book,
open at the picture of the Devil’s Arrows, had a clear paw print on the
photograph. It was small and neat. It was Zillah’s. Giles bent his head and said a silent thanks.
Back in the
drawing room, Buffy and Collins sat in silence as Giles gave his decision about
where they needed to go. Giles knew
that Collins was bursting with questions, but had the patience to save them
until a more appropriate time. That
might not be a good thing. Still,
things were what they were, and it couldn’t be helped now.
“Buffy, I want
you to get a few hours’ sleep.”
Giles. We need to find Angel, and we
need to stop the… the whatever he’s been caught up in.”
managed to stop herself in time from saying the ‘A’ word.
“I know. But the Devil’s Arrows are where we need to
start, and they’re two hundred and fifty miles away. Neither of us got more than two hours’ sleep last night. We’re no good to him if we fall asleep on
the road, and crash.”
“I can sleep
while you drive.”
He put his
hand on her shoulder, gently.
can’t. Three hours, Buffy. We can spare that. We have to spare that, otherwise we might all finish up… well,
said the ‘D’ word.
She wanted to
shout and scream and plead, but she was the Slayer, and she knew that Giles was
right. If he hadn’t said it, she would
have done, sooner or later. Better
sooner. She was already far more tired
than she had let on. She could only
imagine how Giles felt.
He paused, but
it had to be said.
“I think we’ll
need you back here.”
nothing, but he knew exactly what she was thinking when her hand gripped his
arm. Collins, on his own, poking into
heaven knew what. Giles didn’t try to
dislodge her hand.
“Your lab man
said that there were other lines on the paper you got from… from Michel. I think there might be other places to
find. We won’t have time to come
running back here. We may need someone to
do more research for us. Can you do
that he was way out of his depth here.
But, he was good at body language.
He knew that the tension in this room wasn’t just about the missing
Angel. It was about him, sure, but
there was more. He remembered some of
the strange and terrible and unexplained things that had happened in the last
couple of years, many of which had seemed to centre around this house, and then
he remembered that he was already in for a serious bollocking from Dennis the
Menace. How could it get worse?
Buffy went up
to one of the bedrooms. Giles and
Collins each settled down on one of the couches in the drawing room. Ari curled himself up against the warmth of
Giles’ stomach. Zillah sat outside the
study, pleased with herself. Most of
the house still blazed with lights, a beacon against the darkness.
“When do they
bring your breakfast?”
know. I’ve no idea what time it
is. We haven’t been outside in
days. I think it’s days…”
“It’s about an
hour after sunrise. Maybe 5.30. It’s Monday.”
up at him, curious.
“How do you
always knows sunrise and sunset. It
doesn’t matter where we are. Even when
we can’t smell it, we still know.”
He hadn’t been
able to smell the sunrise under water, but he’d still known. He’d counted every single day, when he’d had
the wits to do so.
“Well, I still
don’t know when they bring breakfast, but they will have been celebrating all
night, so I’m very sure it won’t be this early. Why?”
Philip had a
sudden fear, with all this talk of breakfasts.
He wondered how long it had been since Angelus had… eaten. And then he wondered what, as Angel, he ate,
but decided that at this point he preferred not to know.
He saw the vampire
“I’m not going
to snack on you. I just thought I
should make myself scarce before anyone finds me here.”
see the layout of the caves when they brought me in. Can you tell me?”
Philip nodded and
reached for the sword. Using the very tip, he scratched an outline on the
the map for a moment, committing it to memory.
He also recognised from the cavern system just where he was. Appropriate, really.
“Got it. Get rid of that now. I’ll stay down there, with the bodies. Just do what they brought you here to do,
and leave the rest to me. When it all
starts to happen, make sure that you and Joshua stay behind me. I’ll protect you.”
you, and the world, by dying, if I have to, Angel thought, but we’ll leave that
as a very last resort.
down at Joshua. The boy was starting to
rouse from sleep, disturbed by their talking, quiet though it had been.
shackled. They may leave him here.”
silent and graceful, and walked over to where the boy’s chain was anchored to
the wall. Bending down, he grasped the
chain and tore its mountings from the soft chalk. Then he pressed it gently back into the hole, packing the gap
with pieces of rock, which he crumbled easily between his fingers.
“Not any more,
As he walked
back down the passageway, he wondered where Buffy and Giles were, and what they
were doing now.
Zillah and Ari
were walking all over Giles, their soft little feet surprisingly heavy as they
pulled him from a jumble of chaotic dreams.
He looked over towards the clock, and then fumbled blearily for his
glasses. 6.30. Time to get up. Way past time to get up.
Collins was snoring
softly as Giles headed for the kitchen, his stockinged feet silent. As he left the drawing room, he called
quietly up the stairs. Buffy answered
immediately, from one of the bathrooms.
By the time
he’d carried out his own ablutions, made coffee and warmed some croissants, she
was heading over to the flat. He knew
what she was looking for. Perhaps it
was the quiet activity, or perhaps it was just the smell of coffee, but Collins
came into the kitchen, rumpled and bleary-eyed.
turn left, there’s a bedroom immediately on the right, bathroom’s on the left
as you go in the door.”
gratefully and took himself off. Giles
called after him.
be some razors in the bathroom cabinet if you want. Otherwise, give me a shout.
You can use mine.”
answered by a grunt. Taking advantage
of the moment, Giles went out to the storeroom by the garage. This was where the bulk of his magical
supplies were kept. He selected what he
thought he might need. Back in the house,
he raided the weapons cupboard in the utility wing, cramming as much as he
could into an innocent-seeming sports bag.
Then he sat down to a hurried breakfast. They might have as little as seventeen hours, so what price
returned, laden with a bag that he knew would contain weapons for her and for
Angel, and with a cool box which he was pretty sure would have nothing for the
two of them to eat. Angel might need
blood. Buffy was being prepared.
As they gulped
down the hot coffee, tearing huge pieces off the croissants, they heard the
unmistakeable sounds of water from upstairs.
They were both startled, then, by a knock on the door.
“It’s way too
early for the postman, Giles.”
It wasn’t the
postman at all. It was Lisa, with Badger
nudging at her shoulder. Giles thought
that the normally bubbly blonde looked exhausted.
sorry, I just wanted to check that everything was alright here. All your lights have been on all night. I was just hacking Badger out, and I saw they
were still on, so…”
Lisa. Everything’s fine here… But what
about you? You look…erm…”
a little, his sleep-deprived brain not sure how to express concern while not
offering insult. At that moment,
Collins came down the stairs.
is everything alright?”
twitched for Giles, and he saw an extra straw to clutch at. Lisa had already seen Angel in demon face,
and had neither flinched nor told tales.
She knew very little, but perhaps, if she would stay here with Collins,
just maybe things would work out better.
don’t you turn Badger out into the paddock, and come in?”
As they left
Summerdown House, Giles wondered briefly whether to take Angel’s Porsche. It was faster. Buffy shook her head.
“If he’s hurt,
there’s nowhere to put him in a toy car like that.”
That was true
enough. The Discovery was as fast as
they needed. They had a four and a half
hour journey ahead of them, and on a Monday morning, to boot. A Porsche wouldn’t get them through the
traffic jams any quicker. They loaded
their bags into the boot, and then Buffy settled herself into the passenger
seat, equipped with notes and maps. And
directions. No matter how much he loved
the woman-child next to him, Giles could never be fond enough to call her good
with directions. He’d taken a few
minutes to run off the suggested route from the AA website.
The first half
hour or so, travelling up towards Bath and the M4 was easy enough, and he told
her what he hadn’t been able to say with Collins in the room. He told her about Zillah’s footprint on the
She was silent
for a moment, and when she next spoke, she was diffident, uncertain.
you, do you think that Zillah was Ella’s familiar?”
It only hurt a
little to reply.
witches’ familiars are just pets.
Besides, Zillah’s never obeyed anything in her life except her own
hedonistic pleasure! You don’t think
she’s possessed, do you? She’s like any
“Then why are
we going to a place that she trod on?”
was Ella’s f… pet.”
question was even more diffident, her voice small.
Ella sent those dreams to us, and sent us a message via her…cat. Why don’t you summon Ella? You could ask her directly what’s
Giles’ throat ached as he answered.
there’s nothing of Ella left. No soul,
no spirit, no essence, no intelligence.
She was subsumed completely into the power of the Earth.”
He didn’t want
to go further, but he thought of how Angel never flinched from making painful
admissions, when they were necessary.
He swallowed hard, to help him get the words out.
tried. It didn’t work.”
say any more.
Giles. She may not be Ella anymore, but
something in the Earth still cares for you.
Something knows that you care for it.”
He smiled at
“Then it cares
for you and Angel, too.”
and Lisa, there was little to do but wait.
When Lisa went to make coffee, she saw some bags of blood tucked into a
corner of one shelf. They might, of
course, be for jugged hare, but she remembered the face that Angel had
unknowingly shown her when she and Buffy had cut him from the grasp of the
Syriak demon. What would a face like
that eat? Still, whether it was for
food or for jugged hare, blood and policemen never mixed. A brief hunt through the cupboards produced
a small earthenware casserole dish with a lid, and she concealed the bags in
there, returning it to the corner where they had sat before.
explained to her that Angel was missing in action, so to speak, and that they
were trying to find him. That they
might need help once they got to Boroughbridge. Of course she’d agreed to stay.
She’d rather be out of the house just now, anyway. The relationship she’d been in was coming to
a sharp and bitter end, and being here was so much better than watching him
pack. She’d spent most of the night
walking the dark and deserted lanes and byways of the Wessex countryside,
always guided by the blaze of lights at Summerdown House. She’d spent an hour amid the warm fug of the
horses in the livery stable, and then she’d taken Badger out for an early
morning ride. That had brought her
here, and here she had purpose for a while.
coffee in the silence of strangers, and then she’d started to do some tidying
up before Martha arrived. She’d done
the dishes, and stacked the loose papers and books into some sort of ordered
heaps, and then she’d gone back to the drawing room, to make polite
conversation, while they waited.
first hour, they made good time. They’d
done the seventy-odd miles that took them from the M4 to the M5 and towards the
M42, and the huge conurbation around Birmingham. Buffy didn’t need to ask the meaning of the term ‘Traffic
Blackspot’ on the AA directions. She
could see it all around them. The next
twelve miles took them almost another hour, and then they were out of the claws
of the Birmingham traffic and off to the M1 and The North. The stretches by Nottingham and Sheffield
had them both fuming quietly again, and when they got close to the Woolley Edge
services, Giles asked if Buffy wanted a break.
They’d travelled more than 200 miles, and he wasn’t sure when they’d get
briefly, and he pulled in. Minutes for
a trip each to the facilities, more minutes to refuel the car, and they were
away with a takeaway coffee each.
When they reached
the relatively level farmlands of Boroughbridge, in North Yorkshire, it was
well after 1 o’clock and much later than they had expected. As Giles pulled off the A1 motorway and onto
a bridge running over the road, he pointed across the carriageway to a field of
“The other one
indeed, huge. He pulled over beneath a
hedge by a small semi-circle of grass that marked the junction of the main road
into the town, and a small lane running up the side of the long, narrow
cornfield. There was just room for the
Discovery to fit by the side of the lane here – anywhere else, and he would
have been blocking it to other traffic.
In the field were two purplish-grey shafts of millstone grit, each of
them eighteen or twenty feet tall. The
stones strode across the ground, seeming to weigh it down with their size and
nothing to stop them from going into the field, and so they made their way
around the edge, to the smaller of the stones.
Smaller, in relative terms, that is.
It stood by the edge of the field, almost beneath a tree, and was
thicker in girth than the slimmer, taller stone standing isolated among the
growing grain. Each of the two stones
seemed to have been carved at the top, with regular fluted channels tapering
for several feet down the sides of the shaft.
They looked a little like long, slim hands, the fingers fused
together. He’d read that this was
natural weathering, but it was easy to doubt.
“If these have
got any inscriptions on, don’t you think someone would have found them by now?”
necessarily, Buffy. It depends on how
determined anyone was to hide whatever’s here.”
“So they put
these stones up…”
“I don’t think
so. These have been here since the late Stone Age. They’re probably at least as old as Stonehenge. I’m sure the people we’re tracking – or
their predecessors – simply took advantage of the local name. There were probably five originally. One is completely lost to us, but the fourth
was broken up in the sixteenth century and used to build a bridge over one of
the nearby rivers. We’d better hope the
one we wanted wasn’t one of those two…”
get looking, then. I’ll take this one,
you can wade through the wheat to the other.”
It didn’t take
long to establish that there were no inscriptions, no pictures, no Stone Age
masons’ doodles on any part of the stones that they could reach, just some
vague dimples on one shaft. At length,
Giles pulled a small packet of grey powder from his pocket and sprinkled a
little over the dimples. He said a few words of Latin, and Buffy held her
breath, but nothing happened. Giles
“What did you
concoction should have let us know whether these cup marks contained any
coherent message, but it seems not.
Time for something bigger, then…”
“Bigger? Why didn’t you do that first?”
“Buffy, we are
in an exposed field, a few yards from the main trunk road to Scotland. I would point out to you, as if you could miss
it, that the A1 is extremely busy, and there’s also a not inconsiderable amount
of traffic coming along the road at the bottom of this field into
Boroughbridge. Additionally, I would
point out that just on the other side of the hedge where my car is parked is an
estate of houses. I don’t want to use
bigger. I want us to inconspicuously
find what we need and then drive away completely unnoticed.”
Giles. But you must have learned by now
that it never works out like that.”
grace that with a response. Instead, he
took another small packet from his pocket, this time with a deep blue powder in
it. He flung a pinch of the powder up
into the still air, calling on the powers of air and earth to aid them. There was nothing.
the ritual on the second, taller stone.
The result was the same.
“So? That was bigger?”
that was bigger. There’s nothing on
these two stones. Let’s go and look at
around and around, checking out the whole field.
“Is this one
“No. It’s over here. I think.”
him back towards the car. As they stood
on the little semi-circle of grass, he motioned to the other side of the
Boroughbridge road, and they ran across between the speeding cars. Giles was a little breathless when they
reached safety. Buffy was a lot
breathless when he turned her round and pointed.
On a line with
the other two stones, but separated from them by this road, stood the third
surviving Arrow. It was almost hidden,
in a tiny fenced enclosure, a wooden five-barred gate at the front, and a
flimsy stile at the back, and on each side mature trees hemmed it in. It stood captive and alone. And it seemed to be trying to reach up to
the light, to outgrow the trees.
up at it in awe.
“That must be
twenty feet tall.”
actually,” said Giles, consulting his notes.
“So, we’d better get started.
There’s a lot to look at.”
certainly was a lot to look at, but it seemed that there was very little to
find. Admitting defeat, Giles took out
his small bag of what Buffy referred to as ‘bigger powder’. Standing behind the stone, he flung a pinch
of the powder up into the air, and said the words of invocation. He was answered by a flash of purple that
left behind a steady glow of soft light, a corona around the head of the shaft
excitement burst from Buffy as she twirled in a circle.
Giles? Go read, or whatever you’re going
to do next.”
you’re going to do next, I’m afraid. The inscription is up there.”
wondered when Collins’ luck would run out.
Dennis the Menace was down with food poisoning (read hangover), and so
his DCI would live to breathe another day.
Lincoln had just spent the last hour in serious discussion with the
technicians who so far seemed to have failed to earn a single penny of their
grossly inflated salaries – inflated when compared with, oh say, a hard-working
but newly-appointed detective sergeant.
They now had a Plan B, but it would take time.
Lincoln got on
the phone to Collins, to tell him all the good news at once.
someone has to go up and find out what’s written there!”
happened to inconspicuous and unnoticed?”
“Just do the
best you can.”
Hands on hips,
Buffy surveyed the stone pillar. The
rock itself was rough stuff – Giles had told her it was used for making millstones,
hence its name – and would tear her hands to shreds as she slipped back down
it. Because there were no
handholds. There was just the fluting
on the top, and a hell of a long way up before that started. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply,
trying to calm herself, to muster all her Slayerness.
do this,” she muttered under her breath, and then found she’d said it louder
than she’d thought.
“So, are you
going to admit that he can do things that you can’t?”
gave Giles a sour look and then weighed up her options. Suddenly decisive, she headed for the
sycamore tree on her right. Its
branches looked strong enough.
“Buffy? What are you doing?”
“Trying to be
She leapt up
and took hold of the lowest branch, then pulled herself up and started
growing restless. Thanks to mobile
phone technology, he’d got his finger on every pulse that was available to him,
but none of them were telling him very much except that the case was in
critical condition. And now he had two
women to contend with. Giles, it
seemed, had called Martha, and Martha was here, making lunch. And keeping him from snooping around. Exactly as Lisa had kept him from snooping
around before Martha’s arrival. Well,
not snooping so much as checking things out.
Learning what was where. And
what was what.
wandered into the dining room, lured on by the mouth-watering aroma of warm
chicken liver salad with bacon and wild mushrooms. Lisa followed close behind.
There was nothing to do but eat, and wait. He wondered what was happening in Boroughbridge, and then gave
himself over to what was on his plate.
The last major
branch on the tree, as Buffy climbed, overhung the Arrow, or almost so. She scrambled along it, listening for the
first sounds of cracking as opposed to creaking. She was glad that she’d not had time to change out of her dark
leather trousers and jacket. Any
brighter colours would have stood out like a… like a very bright thing up a
tree. She’d been surprised at how late
in the year it was before the trees in Yorkshire started to leaf up, and even
now, some of the ivy-encrusted trees around her were still not long past
breaking bud, with only a young, thin canopy.
This one, though, had been earlier than most, and the fresh new foliage
provided some cover for her.
Now she was as
far along the branch as she dared go, and the Arrow was still a long way
off. It was more feet than she wanted
to think about. Still, she’d fallen
further than this before. And it
killed you, said a traitorous little voice in her head. Trying to ignore that little voice, she
fists clenched, saw her leap, and his heart leaped with her. She scrabbled for purchase on the glowing
crown of the stone, and then she was up.
There was no safe foothold, so she perched herself – rather
uncomfortably, he thought, astride the column, and started to examine the folds
and crenellations in the rock.
“Toss me up a
He cursed himself
for not remembering such a simple thing, and did so. She caught it on the second try.
get it up here. No, I’m good.”
She rolled up
her sleeve and started to write.
Occasionally she repositioned herself so that she could see the rock
where she’d been sitting. When she’d
finished, she came down again, courtesy of the sycamore. Safely back on the ground, Giles could see
that she was scratched and bloodied. He
didn’t want her to have to go up there again, but he had to know.
“Did you get
“Yep! It was carved onto the edges of those
channels in the rock.”
She rolled up
both sleeves and showed him her arms.
“Ogham. Why did it have to be Ogham…? Yes, they used the edges of rocks for
really think we should be going.”
As she pulled
him through the gate, he could see that there was a small huddle of people in
the gardens over the road. They were
pointing towards the pearly-lilac glow that crowned the Arrow.
the traffic back to the Discovery, and Giles got them away as quickly as he
decently could. He headed back south
until they came to Wetherby, about ten minutes away, and pulled off there. On the way, Buffy had spent the whole time
picking bits of foliage, and twigs, and the odd beetle, out of her hair. She looked like a slightly worse-for-wear
wood nymph. A tub of wet wipes in the
glove compartment helped her finish the clean up.
white-walled pub on a corner of the High Street caught their attention. The Angel Inn. What else could it have been?
“This one do
nodded. He bought them two pots of
coffee and plates of sandwiches, and they took them out to the beer garden, a pretty
little square of flowers and grass and budding rose bushes, and some solid
wooden furniture. Giles put down the
tray on a table near the building.
want to be further away?”
“No. I’ll be back in a minute.”
returned, he was carrying the laptop.
He set that down next to the tray, which now held mainly crumbs.
She gestured a
query at the laptop.
internet access. I spotted the sign as
we came in. Our house guests can start
to earn their keep.”
“Do you think
it was a good idea, leaving them there?”
“Yes. Yes, I do.
She knows Angel is something…different, and she hasn’t said a word to
Collins you’re worried about?”
screwed up even more.
“I don’t know…
I have a feeling…”
off and Giles finished her sentence for her.
that he’s a good guy?”
“I have the same
feeling Buffy, and sometimes you have to go with your instinct. We’ll protect them both from too much
knowledge, but we really did need someone there, and there was no one else. Now, I hope you brought that spiffy new
phone of yours?”
A doting Angel
had bought her a camera phone only a fortnight ago, so that she and Dawn could
exchange snapshots. Giles had told him
to put the thing down as a business expense, and it was now about to justify
that decision. He took photographs of
the runes penned onto Buffy’s forearms, and prepared to make the call.
“If we’ve got
internet access, why don’t we just look them up?”
runes on the websites are baby’s runes.
Play things. We need the real,
ancient ones. I had terrible problems
using the web information for transliterations until I got hold of a copy of Besthaven’s
Ancient Alphabets. If they haven’t
raided the study already, I’ll get Martha to dig it out for them while we grab
a bite. Or should I say, while I
grab a bite.”
manage another sandwich.”
was tired, and so Buffy held out her hand for some money while he handed out
instructions to his newest recruits.
that if Giles were marking them, he would hand out A for effort and E for
attainment. Or maybe E for effort,
too. They made painfully slow progress
with the unfamiliar work, and the wretchedly unfamiliar book that Martha dourly
handed to him. He could tell that she
didn’t quite approve of his presence.
The book. Giles had known which alphabet to look up –
something called Ogham, but why on earth the hopefully long-deceased Besthaven
hadn’t chosen to actually put an index in was quite beyond Collins. So, Lisa held up one of the perks – perhaps
the only perk – of being a Detective Chief Inspector, his own camera phone with
the runes pictured on it, and they leafed through the book, examining an
amazing range of almost identical-seeming squiggles. At last, though, after a number of e-mails seeking information,
support, and just plain encouragement, they found the right set of pages, and
the work went more quickly after that, although the first effort left something
to be desired. They had written the
runes on separate pieces of paper, with the translation underneath, and then
arranged them according to the sequence shown in the photographs.
Lisa looked at
the translation – no, transliteration, Giles had said – carefully, and then
announced, in a no-nonsense and practical tone of voice, that brooked no
disagreement, “You’ve got that wrong.”
his protestation of unfairness, and shared responsibility, she tugged the
pieces of paper from his failing grasp and examined them closely. Then she shuffled them round.
“I don’t know
that that’s any better.”
at the new words.
“What? It rhymes with what?”
one. The last one was The Devil Shot,
and now we’ve got The Devil Squat.”
“Do you know
what it means?”
to tell them, then?”
onto the net and see what you can find, please. Keep in touch.”
When Giles put
the phone away, Buffy was looking at her watch.
almost three. Have we got the place yet?”
“I don’t think
we’re at the end yet, but let’s have a look at what they’ve got.”
He told her
what the runes meant, and then he opened up the laptop and googled ‘Devil +
squat’. As he hunted through, Buffy
asked him something that had been niggling her, but had so far been buried
under the mountain of worry she already had.
“How long will
the bigger powder last back at the Arrows?”
“Hm? Oh, until midnight. They’ll either find some rational scientific
explanation for it, or they’ll call it mass delusion. Hah! I bet that’s
it! Come on Buffy, back to the car.”
“What? Thank goodness. Where to now?”
in Derbyshire. It’ll take about an hour
and a half from here.”
Lisa found nothing better to fit the clue, and so Chesterfield it was. In fact, it took almost two hours, as they
caught up with the early afternoon rush hour traffic again. As they sat impatiently at the approach to
the conjunction of the M1 and the M18, Buffy found room for another question.
didn’t you just use this reveal spell on that paper that they found in your
into his pocket and pulled out the plastic evidence bag. The stained document inside glowed in the
same pearly lilac.
“I did. There’s nothing to help us. Michel identified two other clues before
Hendaye, but he’d found the answers to those.
‘The Devil Shot’ was the next on the list. That’s when I got the idea that there was this idiotic clue hunt
to go through. But we’ve nothing else
to help us. I think the spell would
have been strong enough to see off stomach acids, but he simply hadn’t got that
He handed the
bag over, and Buffy could see that he was right.
“Do me a
favour, will you? Just write down everything
on that paper, exactly as it appears?
Before the spell dissipates?
That’s just in case…”
was clearly visible for miles, thanks largely to its parish church, St Mary and
All Saints. The building that Buffy was
later to learn was the largest parish church in Derbyshire stood high above the
profile of the town, and would have been remarkable for that. What it was more remarkable for, even at a
distance, was the shape of its spire.
twisted. It leaned. It was, in short, crooked, like a shallow
half turn on a corkscrew.
Buffy, is that the Devil sat on the spire and, well, squashed it. The reality is that when this spire was
built in the late 1300’s, they used green timber, which was usual, and they
clad it in heavy lead, which wasn’t.
Also, after the Black Death, there was a dire shortage of skilled
tradesmen… Ah, I think we can park here…
Have you got any pound coins for the meter? I think you took all mine at the pub.”
over to the church. Giles inspected the
list of services in the porch.
five o’clock. Drat. There’s only a few minutes to go. We’re going to have trouble poking around
while there’s a service on.”
whatever we’re looking for is outside.”
trouble if it is. A town centre church
on a warm and sunny afternoon is not the place for clandestinely crawling all
over the outside. Let’s do as much as
we can, though. Then I suggest that we
attend church and see whether anything looks promising. They’ll probably lock up after the service,
so to prevent asking you to break and enter, I think we try and conceal
“So that you
can ask me to break and exit?”
where he had first been positioned, the deactivated gris-gris around his
neck. He’d heard men come into the
chamber that held Philip and Joshua, bringing water and breakfast. There had been nothing to suggest that they
had found the loosened chain.
men, men more powerful in magic, had come down to this very bottommost chamber,
the one that had once been the profane holy of holies. Oh, yes.
He knew where he was now.
who’d been here, two minions trailing in their wake, had determined which body
should be used when. He wondered what
criteria their decisions had been based on, but they hadn’t discussed
those. Philip had been right. He was to be the pièce de résistance, and
saved until last.
He had a plan
– sort of. If the plan worked – and
there was absolutely no guarantee of that – then the major part of the night’s
activities would be foiled. But, would
the rest be too much for Buffy and Giles?
If there were seven incarnated top-ranking demons left when the smoke
cleared, could they deal with them?
What was Buffy’s plan?
And the men
who’d been down here? He was pretty
sure he knew who one of them was. Who
it was that led this particular pack.
That worried him as much as the rest of it, and it weighed in the
balance of letting this play out for as long as possible to see who else was
To top it all
off, he couldn’t leave Philip and Joshua down there, to die. No, the plan he had, sketchy as it was, and
reliant on demonic rage for its success, was the best way to go. Probably.
He hoped that Buffy and Giles were close at hand. They must know by now that this was nothing
to do with normal police business, and he wondered how they’d fobbed off
He’d tried to
be rational about it, and examined his conscience on whether he was being
stupid and vainglorious in wanting this thing to play out, but everything in
him, everything that he’d learned over these hard, hard years, was screaming at
him that he needed to take out the spider and the whole of its web. Otherwise there would be no security that
the matter was over for good. Sometimes
you needed to listen to your gut instinct, especially when demon and human
circled around and around in his head as he switched into stealth hunting mode
and stretched his senses to the uttermost, trying to discover everything that
was happening in the caverns above him.
They’d given a
very cursory glance to the most accessible parts of the church’s exterior.
HUGE. Why does it have to be so huge?”
largest parish church in Derbyshire.”
be. Of course it would be.”
nothing obvious to look for, not even to tuck away for post-darkness
exploration. Besides, if they were
still here after sunset, they would almost certainly be too late. The game would be lost, and it seemed that
Angel would be lost with it.
obvious outside, they’d slipped into the church just as evensong was starting,
and had stayed for the service. Now,
they were lurking in St Peter’s chapel.
Buffy hoped that St Peter was a forgiving sort.
“I thought you
said this was Church of England?”
“It’s not what
I expected. They have Masses, and
Church, and there’s High Church, Buffy.
This is High Church. That’s good,
because they might have kept some of the older things that other churches would
have turfed out. We need old.”
“Are you going
to use the bigger powder again?”
“It won’t work
in here, Buffy. There’s sacred, and
there’s profane, and in this space, our earth magic is definitely profane.”
“I don’t know
why you couldn’t just magic up a spell to tell us where Angel is.”
Buffy. It only got us so far. Besides, using magic always has consequences
of one sort or another. You saw that at
the Devil’s Arrows. Sometimes, they’re
unexpected consequences. You should
know that by now. Magically, we’ve done
as much as we could, and that’s been little enough, but even so, we might have
set things into play that we don’t want.
Whoever took Angel uses strong magic.
Maybe they put a more successful type of magical tracer on him than the
police were able with their new technology.
Maybe whoever put that don’t-see-me spell on him now knows that we’re
looking. Forewarned is forearmed, and
that’s the last thing we want. No,
Buffy, the old-fashioned way is best until you get to point non plus. Trust me.”
Giles had been
whispering, but Buffy held up her hand.
footsteps and then they heard the key turn in the lock, and then they were alone.
There was a
table at the back of the church with pamphlets about its history. Giles picked one up.
look around down here, but I suggest that you go up to the spire. I think that’s the most likely place.”
found the tower door. It was locked.
the lock, Buffy.”
sure that despoiling church property is worth a few years in Hell.”
pretty sure that stopping an apocalypse gives you a get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Just then, the
lock snapped and she pulled the door open.
A little fumbling found the thankfully modern light switch. As she started up the stone steps, he called
softly after her.
sake, be careful.”
drifted back down.
“We’re in just
the right place for you to summon up some goodness…”
pacing up and down the drawing room, as were the cats. Occasionally, they would stop, and Ari would
wash Zillah’s face. She leaned into his
pink little tongue as if she were…
dragged his attention away to his companion.
Lisa was leafing through the Besthaven book, making some sort of notes
about it. Just then, Martha came in to
announce that she was bringing dinner into the dining room, and if they’d
nothing better to do than pace until Mr Giles or Miss Buffy got back in touch,
then they might as well come and eat it.
left the room under Martha’s supervision, Zillah hopped gracefully onto Lisa’s
warm cushion, and curled up tight. Ari
sat upright next to her, an Egyptian cat god guard as she tumbled into restless
sleep. Her paws twitched and her
eyelids fluttered as she dreamed The Dream.
It was a long
way up the stairs, but when Buffy got to the top, she could have wished that it
had been longer. The timber beams of
the spire were exposed to view, and were like some surrealist’s nightmare. Instead of being straight and true, they
curved and curled and bent, reflections in an architect’s hall of mirrors. Even she could see that there weren’t enough
cross beams to tie the whole lot together, and when she examined the
foundations of the beams, she visibly paled.
The space here
was remarkably clean and neat. Unlike
Giles, downstairs, hastily leafing through a pamphlet for information on inscriptions,
she wasn’t to know that there were regular guided tours up here, and so she was
inclined to think the worst. Which, of
course, wasn’t as bad as the rest of the worst. She’d tried to remain the Slayer all day, to be strong for Giles,
and she knew he was trying to do the same thing, to be the confident Watcher,
but up here, on her own, she could admit to her fright. When they got this over and done with, and
when she’d got Angel safely back again, she was going to beat him to death for
being so hare-brained. She didn’t know
what with, yet, but something that took a really, really long time to beat a
vampire to death.
As she prowled
around, she could see that, without help, it was utterly hopeless. There was nothing in the tower here, and the
rest of the spire was a long, long way up.
She wanted to scream with frustration, but instead she focussed herself,
drew on every fibre of Slayerness, closed her eyes, and thought of Ella.
It seemed to
her that a spring breeze caressed her cheek, and there was the scent of earth
in her nostrils. Earth and
candlewax. When she opened her eyes,
she thought she saw a dark shadow among the wooden timbers above her, and then
she heard a cat miaow. She’d know that
voice anywhere. She looked up, and high
over her head she saw light and shadow, and something cut into a beam.
There was only
one way up. Saying a word or two of
thanks, she took off her shoes and started up, hanging monkey-fashion. She wondered whether she should tell Giles that
perhaps the sacred and the profane might not be so far apart after all.
meanwhile, was in his own circle of hell.
He’d examined the Poor Box, which had more steel bands and rivets than
was good for it, but which dated from the promising 1600’s, and he’d examined
the lectern, which was of a similar age, but there was nothing. He’d climbed onto pews and scrambled around
walls, in a church that had entirely too much ornamentation for an operation like
this. And he was aware that time must
be running out fast. The leaflets were
a help, telling him what was new in the church and what was old. The north transept had been almost destroyed
by fire in 1961, and he hoped that what they needed hadn’t been in there. He was scrambling up to examine the rood
beam when he heard the side door open, and just managed to conceal himself by
the Foljambe family tomb before the newcomers entered the main body of the
arrangers. It was the night for the
people who came to decorate the church with flowers. And they were between him and the door. What’s more, they were going to be between Buffy and the
door. Drat and blast.
As they worked
they chattered in hushed whispers, and he could see that they were in no
hurry. He simply couldn’t afford to
wait here and let Buffy be discovered opening the door to the tower. Keeping low, he scurried up the side of the
nave, on the far side of the gothic pillars from the half dozen women and their
wretched flowers, and then he sauntered back, as if he had come in by the
unlocked door. He kept his voice as
loud as he reasonably could, hoping that Buffy would hear. She should be down any time now.
hello. I wondered if I might watch?”
One of the
women, iron-grey hair and sensible shoes belying a youthful face, turned to him
the church is closed now.”
“Oh, I didn’t
come for a service. I… I’m new to
Chesterfield. I… er… I was a member of
the flower arranging team back at my old church. I wondered if there might be room for another member here? If you don’t mind a man, of course…”
Well, yes, of course. That would
be nice. I’m Jane, this is Eva, and…”
introductions blurred one into the other for him as he kept his ears pricked
for a sound from the tower. He realised
suddenly that he’d missed a cue.
would you like to do an arrangement for the Holy Cross chapel? There are a pile of flowers over there, and
the vase is still in the chapel. See
what you can make of it?”
worked, they talked, and Giles kept his voice pitched so that Buffy must
hear. He thanked Providence and his
mother, who had done all her own flower arrangements, and his own proclivity
for watching everything, even at an early age. He almost forgot to slice off the drying ends of the stems, to
allow the flowers to drink, but Eva offered him a pair of shears, just in time.
He’d had vases
of flowers at home, but they had been arranged à la Giles. Hold the vase in one
hand and the bunch of flowers in the other.
Bring both hands together. Now,
he tried to call to mind all the wonderful still life Old Masters that he’d
seen, with bowls of burgeoning blooms, petals almost ready to fall out of the
painting, and to copy them. He wasn’t
sure whether he was in any way successful, but his efforts seemed to meet with
approval and, more importantly, the attention of the flower arrangers was on
him, not on the rest of the church.
Nevertheless, he felt that it was a mercy when he saw Buffy’s head
appear around the door. She gave him a
nod and then she silently made good her escape from the church.
He bid his
farewells as quickly as he decently could, with promises to return the
following week, and headed out for the car.
Buffy was pacing impatiently when he got there, but Giles was in no mood
to notice that. His ordeal, and
fatigue, made him snappish.
on earth took you so long?”
“Oh, I don’t
know Giles, maybe the fact that I had to monkey-climb up about fifteen feet of
roof beam, without much in the way of handholds… Do you have any idea what that does to a girl’s nails? And by the way, do you know how that spire
is attached to the tower? It
isn’t. The wood just sits on top of the
stone, and there’s nothing holding it together! A good wind could blow it off!”
been there since 1362, so I imagine it will last until we get out of town. What did you find?”
him a new set of Ogham runes, on the outsides of her arms this time.
“This is not a
good look. Remind me never to get
tattooed! Oh, wait – one of your
friends already taught me that.”
He glowered at
her, but got out the camera phone without further comment. When photographs had been sent back for
transliteration, she settled back into her seat.
“I’ve no idea
which direction to go in. Let’s wait a
few minutes to see what they find. I
could murder a cup of coffee, though, the stronger the better.”
here, and I’ll go rustle one up while we wait.”
been gone more than a few minutes when Collins rang back.
the runes say. ‘The Devil begot.’ Best we can do. There’s one rune we couldn’t account for, though.”
“What do you
“It isn’t a
rune. At least, it isn’t Ogham, and it
doesn’t appear to be in any other alphabet from Besthaven. Next suggestion?”
“Which one is
“Last one on
the right arm.”
at the stored images. The unidentified
one was complicated, much more complicated than a rune should be. There were two hearts, one above the other,
and the line delineating the left side of the upper heart continued outside the
figure, running in an arch over the top and ending in a triangle, rather like
the head of an arrow. A thick shaft
struck down through the centre of the upper heart, below which it forked into
two, each fork piercing one of the lobes of the lower heart. In the other direction, the shaft extended
upwards, and a horizontal line crossed it, to be itself crossed on the left
side by two other straight lines, giving the shape of a simple star. The right arm of the crosspiece angled
backwards and upwards to form a triangle with the shaft, which still continued
upwards to take the unmistakeable shape of a sword, with a hilt and a large
at this complicated figure. There were
many interpretations, he was sure, but with Buffy and Angel, two hearts pierced
together, well… And since Angel could, simplistically, be seen as two selves,
two spirits, two halves of the same heart…
He shuddered a little and tried to tell himself that he was exhausted
and hungry and running on nothing but adrenalin and fear, and definitely being
fanciful. Then he traced a shape with
his finger. The shaft, the main crosspiece
and one of the lines that formed the star created a letter ‘A’. Damn and blast!
around in the car for a blank sheet of paper, copied the figure, and then ran
back into the church.
Jane and Eva,
and whoever the others were, were still there.
Only slightly flustered, he moderated his pace as he approached them.
“I say. I don’t suppose anyone has seen a mason’s
mark, or a piece of church graffiti, like this have they?”
Jane bit her
lip as she studied the figure.
your Jack have a collection of mason’s marks?”
anonymous Ann peered over Jane’s shoulder.
familiar. Let me see… Oh, I know, it’s
one of those churches further down in Derbyshire, Further south, I think, not
in the Peaks. It’s famous for
something… Something old. There’s a
mark just like that there. Sorry, I
can’t remember where it is, though.”
you! Thank you very much!”
Giles ran back
to the car to find Buffy waiting with coffee and burgers.
“Get in Buffy,
quickly. And dial Collins.”
He pulled out
of the car park as he rattled off directions to Collins.
church, mason’s mark, church graffiti, something for which a church might be
remarkable. He’d make a guess at
direction while they were looking, and pray that he went somewhere near.
It was ten
minutes before Collins rang back.
looking on the web, but I rang my oppo in the Derbyshire force. He suggested Melbourne.”
“Melbourne? Melbourne, Australia?”
the Devil’s Marbles and groaned. Buffy
idiot. Melbourne, Derbyshire. There’s some sort of famous painting of the
Devil there. Sounds like it might be
what we’re looking for. By the way,
what would it take to part you from your cook/housekeeper? She’s a treasure.”
something rude as he ended the call, and then blushed when he remembered
Buffy’s presence. He told her their
destination, and she wrestled with the Road Atlas and the map light in the
glove compartment. Somehow he managed
to gulp down the burger and most of the coffee as she called out last minute
directions, changed her mind, and then changed her mind again. It was now past eight o’clock, and they were
definitely running out of time.
from Chesterfield took about an hour, through places that were entirely
incomprehensible to Buffy – Tibshelf, Swadlincote, Swarkestone… Where do they
get these names, she thought. She
wasn’t being frivolous. Anything was
better than thinking about what might be happening just now. If she did that, she would freeze. She was the Slayer, damn it, and it was her
job to stay focused, even if that meant thinking inconsequential thoughts. Images flashed through her mind, of Angel in
danger, of Angel hurt, of Angel… NO!
did they name this place after Melbourne, Australia?”
silent for a moment, and then sighed.
forget sometimes how young you are, and how little you know about this side of
the Atlantic. It’s nice. I see things through your eyes, all fresh
and new. But they didn’t name the
village after the Australian city. It
was the other way round. One of Queen
Victoria’s Prime Ministers, Lord Melbourne, lived in the village, at Melbourne
Hall. Melbourne, Australia was named
“And the Hall
is still there?”
“Why, yes, and
still in private ownership. I think
it’s been in the same family for almost four hundred years.”
going to have to rip that apart, too, are we?”
add that they hadn’t got time to rip anywhere else apart. He knew he didn’t have to, that Buffy
already understood as much. Having left
the church of St Mary and All Saints, they arrived, a little after nine
o’clock, at the church of St Michael with St Mary. The coincidence wasn’t lost on them. Buffy groaned when she saw it.
“Why are all
the churches so large in this country?”
as well you know. But, we certainly
seem to have found all the biggest ones today.”
It was a very
large, very imposing building, and very visible.
there’s no way we can go breaking into this building in broad daylight! Someone will have the police on us before I
can climb a drainpipe. Why do
you have such late sunsets in summer!”
“No.” He was despondent, but there was no point in
giving in to it, not after coming so far.
“And it’s all to do with latitude and the tilt of the Earth… Let’s try
the door anyway. You never know.”
The door was
open, and there was no one inside.
They looked at
each other in astonishment, and then Giles saw the list of services pinned up
in the porch. Monday, 9.00pm. Meditation Zone. Twenty minutes of stillness and quiet reflection.
about ten minutes,” he muttered.
“We solve this
very fast, or it’s breaking and exiting again, then…”
church was beautiful, with unusual galleries and walkways around the
clerestory, but they had no time to dwell on architecture. What caught their attention was on the arched
wall of the central tower, directly facing the congregation when there was
one. They had found what they were
looking for. It was a wall painting, of
the Devil. He had fangs, and feathered
angel’s wings and other… attributes, and he stood astride two women.
mediaeval, and faded. The colours, if
they had ever been any brighter, had now dulled to earth shades of brown and
grey and cream. In some areas, there
were blank spaces where the paint had either been scraped off or had succumbed
to the exigencies of time.
practically ran back to the table by the door, with its collection of pamphlets
about matters of local interest. And
about the church. He was muttering as
he came back, thumbing through the leaflets he had picked up.
had a Royal castle – it was a manor of Henry I, which is why the church and the
Hall are so big. The church was built
around 1120, for the king, which would make one of those upper galleries a
royal pew, and most of the original building survives. The castle’s gone, but the Hall was the
rectory for the church… Oh!”
her displeasure as Giles stuttered to a halt.
“Do not tell
me that we’ve got to pull the Hall apart.
I swear, I’ll have lost patience by then.”
“No, Buffy… at
least, I don’t think so, not yet. Henry
I gave this manor to the Bishops of Carlisle, as a southern retreat when they
needed to make an escape from all the raids and invasions. The Hall was the rectory house for the
“Yes. I’m afraid so. It’s all like a spider’s web, isn’t it? We simply don’t have the knowledge or the time to track the
weaving of it. We can only blunder on.”
passing. We’ve got five minutes. Let’s blunder…”
course. I’m sorry. Let’s see if we can make sense of it. This is a unique church painting – there’s
nothing else quite like it, and people really don’t know what to make of
it. Now… We have two women, facing each
other, and holding a round object between them. Some people think that represents a stolen Host, but it looks
rather large for that. Large, and the
wrong colour; it’s grey. The women have
the Devil standing over them, on their backs, you might say…”
interrupted her, anxious not to let her finish.
“Yes, yes, I
think you should consider them to be merely stylised representations…”
He looked at
fangs. It was the best they could do in
the…” He consulted the pamphlet. “…
late thirteen hundreds.”
“The other thing
is the best they could do as well?”
“Yes, yes,” he
replied, testily, embarrassed. “I don’t
imagine any of them had actually seen the Devil’s member. Let’s press on…”
not! Someone’s coming,” she hissed.
around wildly for a place of concealment, but Buffy took him by the hand and
pulled him towards the doorway to the upper galleries. While the church was carefully and
respectfully closed up for the evening, they hid themselves in the royal pew
until the doors were locked and they were left alone.
once more stalking the drawing room.
Lisa was curled up on a settee, asleep.
Ari was sprawled along the back of it, his legs hanging down on either
side, although he was simply lounging, rather than asleep. Zillah sat on her haunches, on guard in the
doorway, but who could say whether she was keeping them in or keeping something
out? Martha sat in the kitchen, wishing
that the rightful occupants of Summerdown House would hurry back. All three of them.
Collins was on
his cell phone, talking to Lincoln.
Neither of them had considered going home yet, but both were reaching
the limits of exhaustion.
“No, damn it,
I can’t talk any louder. There are
people asleep here. Tell me you’ve got
“Almost. The technicians have nearly finished
rebuilding this tracking system. I
didn’t understand most of what they said, but they’re increasing the gain, I
think. We’ll get false hits, but we
should be able to eliminate those pretty quickly, they assure me. Somewhere along the corridor you’ve
noticed that ‘you’. He’d take
responsibility for this, alright, but he hoped that Lincoln wasn’t saying that
he washed his hands of his DCI.
“… one of the
forces ought to be able to find him. If
he’s there. Half an hour more, they
tell me. Tops.”
Giles had a
torch, which was handy on the old stone stairs. When they got back down to the body of the church, it was clear that
the day had faded too much to see the old painting properly in the remaining
light, and the torch was brought out again.
smaller demons at the sides – they look as though they’re going to disrobe the
two women. What would you say, Buffy?”
“Yes, I think
that’s what we are meant to see, the obvious meaning and the reassurance that
we have the right place. But these
things can have deeper layers, and we definitely need that now. What time is it?”
For not the
first time, Giles cursed the loss of the Watchers’ Council library. Never the Watchers’ Council – it was clear
the world was better without the corrupt and bigoted organisation it had
become. But the library… He thought with longing of the countless
books that had been available to the Watchers, and even of the fifty-five
thousand books up for sale with whichever abbey it was that housed them. All he had here were a few pamphlets for the
general public, a phone link to two people he was trying to avoid giving too
much knowledge to, a worried slayer and his own overtired brain. And a rude wall-painting.
across the painting, Buffy… it’s lost too much paint to be absolutely certain
of the lettering. The accepted version
is ‘ic est celia deabol’.”
“ ‘Here is the
something of the Devil.”
“Celia is a
name, not a Latin word. It’s a
name. It means heavenly. ‘Here is the
heavenly of the Devil? Makes no sense…”
straightened suddenly, and held up her hand to stop him.
Giles. It does. You say this has layers of meaning. What’s the obvious layer?”
through the leaflets again.
“A few people
think that this is a Black Mass, but that’s most unlikely, in a church. The preferred interpretation is that this is
a warning against vanity. That the
round object is… oh, that it’s a mirror.
I thought it might be a crystal ball…”
“Did they have
crystal balls then?”
were using crystals for divination 4,000 years ago. In mediaeval times, lots of people had crystals to see into the
past, present and future – sorcerers, fortune-tellers, gypsies…”
“Gypsies? I might have known they’d be mixed up in
this. Okay, so they had crystals, and
might have had balls. Let’s keep to the
really. Women shouldn’t be vain. Very popular theme at the time.”
hides this message hides it in a popular theme in a royal church, so that no
one will look deeper, but with luck it will be preserved?”
Buffy. But you see something else in
yeah. I may be way off, Giles, but the
Devil looks to me like it might be kicking those little devils off the
women. It’s got angel’s wings, it’s got
dark and soulful eyes, and vampire teeth, and now you tell me that this round
thing might be a mirror. Mirrors and
vampires, and crystal balls to see the future.”
“It’s a bit of
a leap, Buf…”
suddenly, and excitement dawned on his face.
isn’t a set of clues left by devil worshippers for their successors. These clues are for people like us -
possibly done by the same people who did the Hendaye Cross. ‘This is what we’ve seen. This is what you must know. It can be prevented.’ ”
Angel’s in the middle of it again. Damn
him! He can be the Devil or he can be
Angel. That’s what this is telling
us. But where? Where are we supposed to go? It doesn’t seem to be happening here! I don’t hear any chanting. Do you?
There’s always chanting…”
back to the leaflet he had open.
thinks that the word ‘celia’ should read ‘cellam’. ‘Cellam’ means secret place, or storehouse. ‘Here is the secret place of the Devil’. The name is here, Buffy, the name of the
place we need to get to. I’m sure of
it. perhaps it’s underneath the
He ran his
hands around the edges of the painting.
of years in hell for breaking a unique church painting.”
He pulled his hand
away and Buffy saw that there was blood on the pad of his middle finger. There was a paint-free area, an area that
might be an old repair for crumbled plaster, or that might be something else,
just where the Devil’s right hand should be.
It was smeared with Giles’ blood.
She delved into her bag and pulled out a tissue, which she passed to
him, and a nail file, with which she started scratching at the plaster. A piece fell away, and she saw that a shard
of glass had been embedded here. The
point that had stood slightly proud of the surface of the plaster had a gleam
of red on the very tip. She dug the
nail file in deeper. It was only a
matter of seconds before she had excavated the glass. It was slightly curved
and had obviously been broken from a large vessel. Something was etched onto it.
Giles took it from her.
glass. Perhaps it was all they had that
was certain not to rot or corrode over the years. A message in the Devil’s right hand, needing a sacrifice of blood
to find it…”
He peered at
the tiny lettering.
begot St Francis…”
“What! What does that mean? We go to all this trouble for another
was abstracted for a moment, but then he seemed to gather his awareness up
“Hmm? What did you say? Oh no, Buffy, it’s perfectly clear now. I’ve been such a blind fool.
I should have thought of this right at the start. I believe I know exactly where this is
happening. Come along. We need to get out of here. What time is it?”
her watch as they ran to the side door.
“Coming up for
“Then we have
to hurry. It must be two hours away.”
She had no
time to waste on niceties then, and the door lock gave way to one quick flick
of her wrist.
“Are you going
to call the policeman?”
“No. Much better they stay out of this. I’m afraid the police wouldn’t know how to
deal with what I think we’re going to find.
It’s safer this way.”
approvingly, and then they were in the car and away. Giles explained to her as he drove.
think they’ve found him!”
further away from the still-sleeping Lisa, juggling his phone as he did so.
Wycombe. The locals there say that the
signal comes and goes, but they’re sure it’s the tracker. They can’t pin it down exactly, but they’re
still cleaning it up.”
“Get down here
and pick me up. Now.”
guv. What about the locals? And back up?”
Collins had a
up from the locals, but tell them to stay put until we get there, wherever that
turns out to be. Get a few of our
better lads down there, and tell them not to make any noise about it. We don’t want to upset the locals, but I
want to know who I can trust. And you’d
better get a pursuit driver to take us.”
there’ll be a chase?”
“I don’t know
about that, but High Wycombe is two hours away, and we’ve reason to think
something is going down at midnight.
It’s now ten-twenty, you’re dog-tired, and you aren’t driving me at
pursuit speed for a hundred miles. Get
a driver and get down here.”
sir. And guv? What about Rupert Giles and Miss Summers?”
thought about that for a moment, thought about what they might find.
civilians. Leave them out of it.”
going to tell them?”
“No. I’m not.
It’s safer this way.”
Club. Angel lay absolutely still, open
to the tiny movements of air, the least vibrations of the rocks around him, the
smallest traces of scent, the faintest sounds from the cavern system
above. The upper levels had never been
free of Initiates since he’d been here, but new people had arrived now. Things were starting to happen, here in the
Hellfire Caves. For the thousandth
time, he wondered where Buffy and Giles were.
Club, the plaything of Sir Francis Dashwood, never called that in its own
lifetime, but with a variety of names that the club had revelled in. It had come into being at about the same
time that he had. That Angelus had, he
amended. Angelus had known all about
the Friars of St Francis of Wycombe, although he’d never managed to get an
invitation. He simply could never have
been important enough. Angelus had been
pissed about that, but Angel was pleased, for the very pragmatic reason that he
would have already been recognised otherwise.
No, only important people had been members of that particular club. Really important people. Francis himself had been an MP and
Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a few other significant things as well. Members of the club had included the wealthy
and titled, and it was rumoured that the Lord Mayor of London, not to mention
at least one Prime Minister, had also been among their number. Benjamin Franklin had dropped in when his
members had been out for orgies of wine and women, but there’d always been a
core of something else. He’d never
really believed that it was about Satanism, though. Well, that was one thing he’d been mistaken about.
Dashwood. He was supposed to have died
in 1781, but Angel knew better now.
Philip had refused to disclose just why he’d been coerced into providing
Francis with a supply of his laudanum, but Francis and Philip were alike
now. They had the means to endlessly
renew themselves, to shed the skin of age, like the eternal serpent, and to go
on. They might be fixed as middle-aged
men, but until they died they would never change beyond that. Like him.
It had been a
strange feeling to discover that Philip wasn’t just Philip, but was that famous
and infamous alchemist and physician, Paracelsus. Paracelsus, who was older than Angel himself was. That was a thought that took some getting
used to. To find, now, that Francis was
also older than he was, even if only by about fifty years, was also really…
Dashwood. Not the name he went by now,
of course. He must have had many names
over the centuries, dropped out of sight for a while and then come back as
someone new. He was still a well-known
figure – and hadn’t that been a surprise? – but knowing who he was certainly
explained how his current persona had survived. He’d always known how to provide what the great and the good –
and the not-so-good – craved.
something Angel would have to face one day, now that he was leading a more
settled life: how to hide the fact that he never aged. He hoped he wouldn’t need to worry about it
for many years yet, but the time would come.
Get through today, he chastised himself, before worrying about all those
tomorrows that might never happen…
He pictured in
his mind the drawing of the caves that Philip had scratched on the floor. What had he said? ‘It starts with the Entrance Hall – that’s long and straight. The passageway turns sharply left. Just after a small dead end on the right,
you come to The Circle. Then there’s
another long, straight passage, and at Franklin’s cave, the exit is on the far
right. That leads down to The
had drawn a complicated cavern system.
‘This has a
passageway around it, with tunnels connecting it to the main cavern. Then The Triangle, which Francis likes to
think of as a woman’s, you know…’
nodded him on, to spare the man’s blushes.
‘Then we are here,
in the Miner’s Cave. The River Styx,
you will have crossed to get back up here, and then the chamber where you were
taken, The Inner Temple.’ So, here he
lay, in the Inner Temple, surrounded by dead bodies and the odd votive
statue. At least he knew what to expect
if he had to make a run for it. Not
that he would.
He dragged his
thoughts back to the here and now as he heard footsteps in the tunnels. There were several men approaching. Moving time had begun.
He and the
seven other bodies were carried back up the tunnels to The Banqueting
Hall. There, they were arrayed neatly
around the two overlapping circles that had been carefully drawn on the
floor. Angel reckoned it was about ten
o’clock. He could hear the sound of
cars arriving, but they weren’t cars that he recognised. More Initiates, he thought. Or did they still call themselves
Friars? Whatever they were, this ceremony
wasn’t going to be about wine and women and orgies.
There was no
sign of Buffy or Giles, not by sound or scent or that gut feeling that told him
his slayer was close. Nor could he find
any trace of the policemen, which reassured him that his new family were
unlikely to have come to harm. It meant
that he was on his own, though. That
was probably as it should be. This was,
apparently, his Apocalypse to win or to lose, and his toss of the dice would be
a desperate bid indeed. Buffy would be
there if he failed, and that was a comfort.
were making their preparations, cowled and anonymous in their voluminous dark
robes. He might not be able to see
their faces, but he would know their scent, now, anywhere that he met them
again. And he knew that some weren’t
entirely human. Or even mainly
were laid around the circles, together with sprigs of yew and lilac, and bowls
of chrysanthemum leaves. Angel could
hear the sounds of conviviality further up the cave system. Someone was wining and dining, but so far as
he could detect, there were no women there.
Just the great and the not-so-good, then, filling their bellies and
winding up their nerve for the coming emprise. He wished that he could make them understand just what danger
they were courting, but then he realised that they already understood
that. They just thought that other people
would be facing the danger, and that their part in this obscenity would make
them safe. Selfishness and folly.
hour, the Initiates, as if to a signal that only they could hear, arrayed
themselves around the double circle, and stood waiting. Somewhere up the passage, a small silver
bell rang, and the sounds of feasting ceased.
The pheromones of fear and excitement accompanied the sound of feet, and
a small crowd of Friars joined those already in the Banqueting Hall. These, too, were robed and cowled, but in
white, and they were clearly less comfortable with their attire than those in
the dark robes. Angel could see their
faces as they fiddled with the deep hoods.
astonished although, when he had time to reflect, he thought that perhaps he
shouldn’t have been. Powerful people
wanted a new start for the Earth, and this was how they had chosen to bring it
about. He remembered that the old
membership rolls had included MPs, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Lord Mayor,
a Prime Minister, and the wealthy and powerful. Not much changed, then, although he couldn’t see a Lord
Mayor. Not sufficiently in favour, he
supposed. That man was surely…? And the one over there? Well, there was no surprise they were
standing at opposite ends of the group.
They were reported to fight like cat and dog… They weren’t the same individuals as in the old days – Philip had
only ever given the laudanum to Francis – but it seemed that the same power
constrained its wielders, its slaves, to walk the same path.
lips never moved, Angel smiled grimly to himself. If his plan worked, there was a fair chance he would bring all of
these people down before the night was much older. Literally. He couldn’t
imagine that their master – and he didn’t mean Francis – would not punish
failure severely. He didn’t know who
would be left alive in an hour’s time.
He wondered how the spin-doctors would deal with that, come the morning.
The two groups
remained separate, seemingly wary of each other. The light-robed newcomers formed a restless knot of rather more
than a dozen just inside the mouth of the passageway back to the surface
world. The dark-robed Initiates, humans
and demons both, stood quietly, surrounding the circles of power on the
floor. Francis, in his black robe,
walked around the circles, lighting the candles and the bowls of herbs. The bodies, unfeeling and unknowing except
for one, lay around the walls of the cavern.
They were naked, except for one, and that one was very grateful indeed
for his advantage over them.
At a signal
from Francis, one of the Initiates peeled away from his fellows, and walked
further into the earth. When he
returned, Philip was following him obediently, the sword gripped in his hand. Angel could scent Joshua quietly drawing a
And then it
The first of
the bodies was carefully lifted into the nearest circle. Francis began his incantation, and the
chanted spell was picked up by the Initiates.
At the end of each part, Francis paused, and the white-clad Friars
intoned the refrain that they had been taught.
Angel felt contempt for them.
Like their predecessors, he was sure they had first just seen Francis as
someone who could procure a good time for them in absolute secrecy, but it had
grown from there. These were people who
should be making life better, safer, for nations, and they were here to usher
in hell. He hoped they’d feel its full
benefits, just as he had.
A thin smoke
began to gather in the far circle, gradually thickening until a shape could be
seen in its roiling darkness. A huge
red maw opened, showing fangs of ivory white against the scarlet and the black,
and then there were eyes, hard and dark, surrounded by golden-yellow. The beast roared, and Angel could have sworn
that the breath of hell rolled out of the circle. He hoped that Francis had this summoning under control.
walked forward and stood with the sword poised over the breast of the dead
man. One quick thrust, and the sword
had pierced to the heart. The man who
had once been Paracelsus unscrewed the top from the sword’s pommel and scooped
out a tiny pinch of the red laudanum.
He pressed this into the wound made by the steel, and then he
straightened up and waited.
closed over. The dead man shuddered,
and was still again. After a moment, he
convulsed. Then he stood up, remaining
in place patiently like an ox. Or like
a zombie, Angel thought. The chanting
strengthened and Philip stepped in to the circle. He took the dead man by the shoulder and steered him to the
vesica, the overlapping oval between the two circles, and gently propelled him
into it. Instantly, the clotted shadows
swooped around the man, enveloping him, hiding him from sight, and then
vanishing into every orifice. When the
shadows were gone, the man was on his knees.
Slowly, unsteadily, he stood up, a new, darker light in his eyes. He looked down at himself.
“I like this.”
staggered a little, from weakness and disorientation. Initiates ran forward and broke the circle, helping the newly
incarnated demon into the living world.
He was dressed in a scarlet robe, and then he knelt by the side of the
circle, gathering his strength and waiting for what was to come.
As the circles
were repaired, Angel almost cast his plan aside. Here was an incarnated lord of hell, and just now it was as weak
as any other newborn. What was he
doing, lying here, waiting? Playing the
long game, he reminded himself. You need to winkle the evil out of here, like a
weevil out of a nut. If you jump up and
start slaying now, there are enough demon Initiates to take you down before you
finish the job. Stick with the
plan. It was sensible, but it was
hard. If he failed, he was leaving a
giant economy size job for Buffy.
was moved into the circle, and the chanting started again.
reached the Hellfire Caves, Buffy, in a prescient moment, told Giles to pull up
short of the car park. It was ten to
midnight, and Giles remonstrated that they were several minutes short of the
caves. Buffy, though, was in full
someone up ahead. Be careful.”
They ran from
the car, staying low, keeping to the cover of shrubs and trees where they were
able, holding their weapons bags carefully so as not to make unnecessary noise.
Buffy was right. There were a lot of
cars – and people – in the car park.
Buffy pressed Giles back into the shadows as a police car sped up from
the same direction they had come. There
was no time to see who was in it, but both of them were pretty sure they
knew. The attention of those in the car
park was drawn to the police vehicle.
Using that distraction, Buffy and Giles fled up the path to the entrance,
passing the large notices that read ‘Closed for a Private Function’.
appalled by what he saw in the car park, and he was only a little quicker to
catch on than Lincoln was. Perhaps a
dozen, maybe more, large dark cars occupied the gravelled space, each with an
attendant driver. A few had larger more
muscular attendants than mere drivers.
He turned to his sergeant.
numbers of each vehicle – don’t let them know you’re doing it, or you’ll be
directing traffic for the rest of your career.
Which won’t be very long. When
you’ve got the numbers, get the hell out of here, both of you, and put them
somewhere safe. As long as you’ve got
that information, you’ve got ammunition and armour.”
“Sir, we can’t
possibly do any good here. Just look at
what we’ve got. These guys are going to
make mincemeat of us, and I don’t just mean the heavies! Some of these are Ministerial cars. This is bigger than you…”
or favour, Gavin. Damn it!”
The last curse
was uttered as he saw two dark shadows slip into the entrance to the caves.
“They’re in –
Giles and the girl.”
could even question him, he was out of the door and heading for the caves. Some of the bulky men were heading after
him, more quickly than one would expect from men of such size. Lincoln finished scribbling into his
notebook and thrust it at the driver.
take this and get out of here.”
“You think I
should leave him in there? Go get some
reliable backup. You know what to do.”
With that, he
was off after Collins, but one of the bruisers pushed him to the ground, and he
waited until they’d all gone before he followed.
Now it was
Angel’s turn. Seven red-robed,
newly-incarnated and very powerful demons knelt around the twin circles, and
he’d lain in fear that one of them would detect his presence, even if the
demonly Initiates hadn’t. He wondered
whether the false gris-gris had saved him from that, because so far, he was
just another dead body to them. Francis
had finished removing all the paraphernalia that had been used in summoning the
seven demons. Now, he replaced it with
new and different items, red candles, different herbs, powders sprinkled around
to reinforce the circles.
As he allowed
himself to be carried into the nearer circle, Angel despised the man’s
arrogance. He’d almost exhausted
himself and his followers in raising these monsters in quick succession, and
yet he still thought that he would have the strength to control one who was
vastly more powerful. Once again, the
incantations – and the summoning – began.
At first, only
a few wisps of vapour appeared, and then something started to pour into
the other circle, swelling and billowing, but never breaching the protections
that bound it. It was the red of a
cardinal’s vestment, and it swirled and coiled, seeking freedom from the wards
that imprisoned it. Soon, it had filled
the entire circle, a churning tempest of malignancy. A figure started to form within the depths of the boiling cloud.
There was a
face, almost human, but grotesquely elongated, and with huge, forward pointing
horns. The torso was human but, below
that, the joints and proportions were all wrong for a man. Instead, they were the shaggy, pelt-covered
legs of an animal with enormous cloven hooves.
A lashing tail curled high over the monster’s back, a tail that divided,
and divided again, into nine separate parts, each ending with a ghostly
serpent’s head. And the Beast was
red. The red of blood, of forges and of
fire, not from pigmentation, but from heat.
Angel could feel it, searing his skin.
As the figure solidified, it grew until it towered over everything in
the cavern. Francis had really summoned
Old Nick himself, and he was going to unknowingly give him the gift of Angel,
body and soul and spirit.
briefly whether his demon would have a better chance of beating the monster in
front of him, but decided that if things went badly wrong, he’d prefer to die
as himself. Or at least, as the part of
him that he liked to think of as himself, on a good day.
down to unfasten Angel’s shirt, baring his chest and uncovering the flesh over
his heart, and then he stood with sword poised. As he did so, Joshua, who had been hiding in the tunnel, raced
into the cave and to his grandfather, carrying his loosened chain as he
ran. In one smooth motion, almost
unnoticed as those gathered there turned around to look at the boy, Angel
snatched the sword out of Philip’s grasp, and came to his feet, facing The
Devil himself. The chanting stuttered
and faded, as the Initiates gaped with horror at the living man who had dared
to breach their sanctuary and take arms to stop them. Francis struggled to keep the spell alive, sweat from the effort
running down his face.
swung around so that it was face-to-face with its challenger, and it mocked
him, its hollow laughter echoing through the tunnels. With a voice like the clang of iron, it boomed its derision at
“Why, if it
isn’t the little vampire… Angelus, come as you have been foretold, to provide
my gate into this dimension…”
He cut it off.
“Gates can be
locked. You aren’t getting in this
Joshua stepped into the circle behind him, and he raised the sword.
down the tunnels followed by Giles. She
had the sense not to outdistance him.
Whatever was down there, it would need the two of them. Her slayer senses were assailed by the smell
of earth and candlewax, exactly the scents that had come to her on the spring
breeze up in Chesterfield’s crooked spire.
And then they heard a voice, like the din of Hell itself, and both of
them ran harder. They ran down long,
straight tunnels, lamplight reflecting off the white walls, and they ran
through caverns without noticing shape or size. She knew that they’d found him before she saw the knot of
white-robed men in front of her. She
heard his voice say, “Gates can be locked.
You aren’t getting in this time.”
her way through the ruck of bodies, men paralysed in fear, perhaps, but she
didn’t care. They were in her way and
she shoved them aside. She felt Giles’
hand on her shoulder as he, too, pushed his way through. She thought she heard footsteps in the
tunnel behind her. Collins, perhaps,
but she had no time to dwell on it. Her
attention was on the drama in front of her.
Without any conscious volition on her part, she reached into her bag and
pulled out a sword as she watched Angel lift the sword in his own right hand,
as she saw the man and the boy who were sheltered by his flesh and bone and
blood from the horror that was only inches away from him.
him as, shockingly, terribly, he tilted his head sideways, as he shifted his
grip on the sword hilt, and as he raised the blade high. Time froze for her, sliced into an infinity
of wafer-thin fractions of an instant, as he put the sword tip to his right
temple and, with one smooth, never-ending movement, thrust it into his skull
and out through the other side. He
didn’t crumple or stumble or collapse.
Instead, graceful in this as in all things, he fell to his side, amid a
spray of ruby drops that poised in mid-flight, seemingly held by the weight of
cosmic gravitas, glistening darkly in the candlelight. His Descent took a lifetime, an eternity,
forever, his body following a perfect and everlasting arc, an angel falling
from sky to ground, vital dust brought down to Earth.
As he reached
the climax, the fulfilment, the consummation of that aeons-long Fall, she saw
his left hand stretch out and his fingers brush against the far circle, erasing
the tiniest part of it and breaching its magical defence. And then the cavern exploded into smoke and
heat and flame and roaring sound. It
became Earth and Fire.
There was more
noise behind her, breaking through the endless, boundless glacier of frozen
time that surrounded her, like a hammer through glass, and she understood what
Giles was shouting at her.
And run she
did, with Giles and Collins helping her to push a group of white-clad men back
down the tunnel. She could feel the heat
at her back as the fires of Hell followed them through tunnels and caverns and
out of the entrance. Hands snatched at
her through a mass of men clustered around the cave entrance, and Lincoln
pulled her and Giles and Collins into the shelter of an alcove, pushed them
down to the ground, and covered them with his own body.
She saw the
flame lick over Lincoln’s back, and as soon as it passed, still clutching her
sword, she pushed him down and rolled him in the grass to douse his burning clothes,
and then she ran out into the courtyard.
It was filled with men and demons, their hoods come loose as they tried
to beat out the flames that licked at them.
She left the humans to the attentions of others, and she turned her
sword on the flaming demons. Not one
escaped her, except those who fell to Giles’ axe.
She sat by the
side of Angel’s bed. They had managed
to get him to the car, despite his greater weight, and Giles had insisted that
he be cared for here, in one of the main bedrooms rather than in the garage
flat. There was a bandage around his
head, although the wounds seemed to have stopped bleeding hours ago, but he had
not yet regained consciousness.
It had been
hard to get him away from the carnage at the Hellfire Caves. Someone must have had the presence of mind
to dial 999, and when the entire emergency services had turned out, it had
seemed to make an unnoticed escape impossible.
But, somehow, in all the confusion, they had managed.
As soon as she
had dealt with the demons, she and Giles had crept back into the blackened
tunnels. They’d needed their torches –
whatever had happened had burned out the lighting – and the smell of charred
flesh had made them both want to vomit.
There were many, many bodies scattered around the chamber, burned beyond
recognition, and they had to step carefully over them. Angel, miraculously untouched by the fire,
lay within the shelter of the circle.
Of the man and the boy who had been in there with him, or of the sword
that she had seen Angel thrust through his skull, there was no sign. There were just a few grains of red sand in
his hair, over the wounds, and they glittered unnaturally in the torchlight.
he had been a dead weight, but somehow they had managed. Collins had seen them as they came out of
the entrance to the cave, and he had waved them through. And so, they had made good their
escape. Giles had proved remarkably
adept at head bandages.
to leave. She’d pulled up a comfortable
armchair and had dozed a little, leaning across the bed, waking up stiff and
sore. She’d gone for a shower, and had
carefully washed Angel. He was
fastidious, and even though he was unconscious, she believed that he would know
he was clean and feel better for it.
That done, she
simply sat, holding his hand, waiting for signs of life from a dead man.
They’d put him
in the small central bedroom because it was the easiest to sun-proof. The door stood ajar as Giles walked down the
landing, carrying a luncheon tray for her: a few delicacies to tempt her
appetite, and a pot of tea. There was
also a glass of blood for Angel, in case he woke. The scene inside touched him deeply. It wasn’t so much the sight of the living holding hands with the
dead, waiting for him to rise, but of two lovers cast into heroic moulds that
so far had failed to release them even for death itself. He thought that the only peace they would
ever truly find was with each other.
He felt a pang
of regret for the loss of Ella, and then he remembered the dreams. Buffy had been right. Something in the Earth still cared for him,
and had called on him in its hour of need.
He felt honoured by that. It
cared for Buffy and for Angel, too, and his mind’s eye recaptured that moment
when the deer, shorn of its weapons, had fallen in the forest, the moment of
warning that Angel might be slaughtered to give life to the Lord of the
Flies. There had been sorrow that Gaia
herself would die if that were allowed to happen, but he knew in his heart that
there had been sorrow, too, for the three of them. Sorrow and love. He
wished he’d understood it all sooner.
fool, he chastised himself, and then he decided that, between them, they had as
much right as anyone to be maudlin. At
least, they were still here to maudle – and if there were no such word, then
there should be. He just hoped that
Angel would be all the way here. A
sword through the skull might be tricky stuff to mend, even for a vampire.
needed to find out from Angel exactly what had happened, but he knew what he’d
seen, there in the Hellfire Caves.
Angel had faced down Old Nick himself, and he’d won, but at what cost to
himself? He wondered if The Devil held
grudges. More immediately, what he
didn’t know, and this also troubled him, was how much Collins might have
seen. He’d felt the policeman’s hand on
his shoulder just as the fires of hell were loosed, and then all hell had
indeed broken free, and there was nothing for it but flight and then
fight. But if the policeman had
seen… With an effort, Giles pushed all
those thoughts back into the little space that he kept for ‘later’, and made
some small noise as he pushed the door further open.
Giles came in
quietly with the luncheon tray for her.
As he put the tray down on the table beneath the screened-off window,
she felt Angel squeeze her fingers.
There was a sharp intake of breath as she gasped in relief, and then he
opened his eyes. She didn’t let go of
his hand, but her first words were words of anger.
you know by now that you haven’t got enough brains to be losing them like
tighter and gave a small, tired chuckle.
“I love you
forgotten, she threw herself on his breast and simply held him. She felt his arms creep around her, his
hands caressing her back, soothing her, and then there came a knock at the
courtyard door. Giles slid out of the
room, unnoticed, to answer it.
He was back a
few minutes later.
Collins. He wants to know if you’re
alright. I really don’t know how much
he saw last night. What do you want me
to tell him?”
stamped her foot.
probably got a chunk of brain missing!
You can’t go socialising with policemen! Not yet, not until you’re healed.”
Buffy. I’ve got a bit of a headache,
but I’m okay.”
“Let’s take a
words, Giles started to unwrap the bandage.
When he’d finished, both he and Buffy peered intently at Angel’s scalp,
pressing the hair aside to give easier access.
They could find no sign of injury.
Giles suddenly cracked out laughing.
“I’m sorry, I
feel like the nit nurse…”
merely looked at him in bemusement. He
quickly sobered up.
“Angel, we found
some grains of fine red substance in your hair… Not sand, but something like
it. Something strange.”
Angel smiled a
“I’ll tell you
everything later, but for now, let’s see our policeman.”
Buffy put out
a restraining hand to stop him getting up.
me one thing now. Why? Why did you do that? You frightened me to death.”
He took hold
of her hand, lacing his fingers into hers.
“We knew they
needed bodies with as few injuries as possible. Francis was always going to have trouble holding the summoning
when he got to Old Nick, and I needed to make my body unsuitable for him, to
make sure that there was an angry magical backlash that would take them all out
in one go. Francis had the means to fix
flesh and bone, but fixing brains is a lot harder. I was betting it couldn’t be done in time. I knew it wouldn’t kill me, and I was fairly
sure it would be okay. Eventually. Well, I had reason to think so… I’m sorry, love, but it seemed better than
letting Philip hack my head off.”
discreetly to remind them of his presence.
“Later. You’ll get it all later – and you can tell
me what you were up to. You were up to
something, right? You weren’t just
sitting around waiting for me to call?
Because I didn’t take the phone, you know… Did the tracker thing work?”
He looked from
one to the other, both of them standing in appalled silence. It was the ex-Watcher who regained control
of his jaw muscles first.
around? Sitting around! No, we were not sitting around, and no the
tracker thingy did not work!”
off with a harrumph that made Angel smile, until he realised that Buffy hadn’t
yet had her say. Oh, well, lots to look
forward to later. But that reminded
knife was on the bedside table. As
Giles and Buffy vacated the room to keep Collins occupied, he swung himself out
of bed, sitting on the edge for a few seconds to gather his wits and his
balance – his headache was worse than he’d wanted to admit, and he felt remarkably
dizzy – and then he carefully sliced into his thigh, wincing as he did so, and
pulled out the tracker. He pressed the
wad of discarded bandages against the wound until the sluggish flow of blood
had stopped, then pulled on some sweats before going to face the long arm of
the law. He stopped on the way to wash
his blood off the tracker. No sense
They were in
the drawing room. Collins looked as
though he hadn’t slept in a week.
Perhaps he hadn’t.
“I wanted to say
thank you, and to see how you were.”
Collins gestured to Buffy and Giles.
“I’ve already thanked them, and said sorry they had such a wild chase to
an eyebrow, but the rest of the household maintained an innocent front and a stolid
silence that seemed to Angel to be a little… vengeful.
“… and I’m
sorry the tracker didn’t work. At
least, not until Gavin bullied the technicians into practically rebuilding the
system to make it more sensitive…”
“How is Sergeant
Lincoln?” He glanced over at
Angel. “Angel doesn’t know what
happened yet. He’s just come round. I should ignore anything he says, if I were
you. I doubt he’s back in his right
Collins smile, but the news on his sergeant was good, too.
burns on his back. He’ll be in hospital
for a few days, but he’ll be fine. No
glad. He was very brave.”
In the ensuing
silence, while everyone wondered what to say, and what to hold back, Angel proffered
the tracker. Collins took it and put it
in his pocket. When he pulled his hand
back out, he had a small square of folded paper in it. He started playing with it, turning it round
and round in his fingers.
have used you in this, you know. I’m
sorry for that. My judgement is usually
“No. It was just the right thing to do. And anyway, it was my decision.”
as if she would argue, and so Angel repeated himself.
“It was my
was a small thing, tired and vulnerable, but he didn’t disagree.
“I’ll get you
some fees and expenses. You’ll deserve
every brass farthing, all of you.”
He drained the
last of his coffee.
“I… I can’t
stay. I’ve got to go and give my report
to my Superintendent, and there’s a lot of mess to clear up. Some important people were killed last
night, and others badly hurt…”
“How many did
you save,” Angel asked. He remembered
that knot of politicians, barons of commerce and the like, standing at the
entrance to the Banqueting Hall, and he wondered if any had lived.
“Eight. Their minders rushed them off pretty quickly
– the ones that weren’t too badly burned to do their job. There were a lot of injuries, as well as a
lot of deaths. I managed to deal with
the ones that… the ones that didn’t look, erm, quite right. The ones that had sword wounds. Or worse.”
He glanced at
Buffy and Giles, who kept up the innocent look.
“I couldn’t do
it alone, but some of our boys were there.
They’re getting used to odd things, it seems…”
“Francis? Did he get out? Well, you’d know him by another name.”
When he gave
Collins the name, the man shook his head.
“I only know
that I didn’t see him, so I suppose he’s one of the bodies we can’t identify
yet. I didn’t know he was
involved. I should have suspected,
seeing who the others were. We’ll be
doing DNA analysis on the bodies, but that will be some time yet. It takes a while.”
the ones in red robes? There were seven
his head again.
none of those made it out, at least not that I saw. We logged seven bodies in the remains of red robes, gathered
round in a circle with some of the others.
Burned to a crisp, just a few pieces of material left on their backs,
protected from the flame. How did you
manage…? No, Giles said not to ask you
too many questions. So, I’ll go and
make my report, and I rather think that everything will be hushed up after
today. There are some people who owe
their lives to you three, and they know it.
Fortunately, I don’t think they know who you are, and I’ll try to keep
it that way.
me. A policeman’s lot is never
done. I’ve just learned that a new
problem has apparently moved into my patch.
I shan’t have time to deal with him just yet – I mean, can you imagine
the paperwork that all this will take? – but I shall have to look him up sooner
or later. Best forger I ever came
across. Specialises in official
paperwork, passports, that sort of thing.
We’ve never managed to pin anything on him, never managed to identify
any dodgy documents. He’s really
good. I don’t know, if it’s not one
thing, it’s another…”
With that, he
stood and took his leave. Giles
escorted him to the door. When he
returned, he saw that the square of paper that Collins had been toying with lay
on the coffee table, and he picked it up.
“No, I don’t
think he forgot it at all.”
When Giles opened
it up, there was a name, address and telephone number. Nothing else. Angel took it from him.
“I think I
should pay Mr… Smith… a visit, don’t you?
If he’s as good as Collins says?”
think of a thing to say, so he picked up the copy of Besthaven’s Ancient
Alphabets that still lay on the coffee table. As he did so, the pages fell open and a piece of paper fluttered
out. It was an index, neatly compiled
in Lisa’s handwriting.
A couple of
evenings later, the Westbury Cider Men were making merry on the front lawns of
Summerdown House, under the watchful eye of their president, Mrs Lillian
Groom. Watchful, and slightly
intoxicated, but that was fine, because the Cider Men, equal opportunity
drinkers that they were, together with what looked like half the old village,
were all rather intoxicated. They were
doing the final cider tasting tonight, making their choice from six different
recipes, for the Cider Cup that they would field in their Midsummer’s Eve
challenge to the Trowbridge Cider Tankers.
The Tankers had won the challenge three years on the trot. Not this year, she thought. Not this year.
band was playing silly music so that people could indulge in silly dancing, the
cider was flowing by the barrel, and Martha Fletcher had provided an al fresco
buffet that was fit for a king. All was
right with the world, thought Mrs Groom.
had that thought, too. Angel and Buffy
were cuddled together under the pergola that ran over the door, thankful that this
side of the house faced east. The sun
was almost down, but not quite yet.
They were watching the antics on the lawn. Angel had professed himself shocked that Lisa and Collins should
be… dancing. He had to use the word
dancing because he couldn’t find an alternative, and that was nothing to do
with missing brain cells, of which there were none, thank you so very
much. Thanks to Philip, he had a full
complement again, more quickly and perhaps more certainly than his own healing
abilities would have done … And hadn’t Giles been surprised to find out who
Philip was… Angel smiled at the
He looked down
at Buffy, and found that she was watching John Fletcher and his latest
helper. She felt Angel’s eyes on her,
and snuggled closer.
killed him, you know.”
“John? You almost killed John?” His voice was playful, teasing.
brainless, not John. Stephen, or
whatever he decides to be called. How
many times has he changed his mind now?
Twenty? Thirty? No, when we went in for you, and found him
chained up in one of those side caves, I knew he was a demon in a man’s body,
but he was so pathetic… And he did help to carry you out of there. We probably couldn’t have done it without
He let his fingers
walk softly up and down her ribs, enjoying how she arched towards him.
“He was the
test summoning, just a minor demon. He
doesn’t seem to have any real harm in him… I’m glad you let him live. He can help John dig out the new flowerbeds
before he moves on. Save us a job.”
they were watching him, knew that he lived by their grace and favour. He looked at the world around him, and
wondered whatever he’d done to be so favoured.
The taciturn man standing next to him, John, had shown him grass and
flowers and a hundred other growing things, and said that he might help to
create this beauty. He breathed in the
scents of this world and vowed that he would do nothing to make them send him
back to the world of smoke and flame and ash from where he’d been
summoned. Nothing. Already, he loved this place. And this borrowed body was better than he
could have expected. It would last him
for a very long time. Yes, he thought,
all’s right with this world. He looked
over to the demon and the Slayer behind the glass, and smiled.
Angel, I constantly give thanks for shopping trips to London, for the fact that
Paris and the rest of Europe is easy access from here, and we’ve got Bath to go
to for half the week, but I like it here.
I didn’t think I would, and there were times when I just wanted to run
away – and without you and Giles, I would have. But now, I’m glad we’re here.
I love it. I’m making
friends. It feels like home.”
Angel, contentedly, all’s right with this world.
Every rose has
a thorn, though. The last rays of
sunlight faded outside.
enough sitting around, Angel. Let’s
I’m not Dan
Brown, and while I’ve put in a lot of factual information about real places,
the only connection between any of them is admittedly only in my
imagination. I think. Here’s some more information, if you’re
interested. It carries on from the
notes after Part One.
Hendaye is an
interesting coastal town, a jumping off point for Spain from the French Pays
Basque. It has another claim to fame,
though, a mysterious Cross. There is a
mass of information about it on the Internet.
Here are some of the sites I used, and they have photographs of all
parts of the cross. I compressed the
information mercilessly, and I edited some of it very creatively, but the raw
data about the Cross itself I gave accurately.
23 Apocalypses and eschatology
Try these for
24 Fractal time waves
It has been
posited that a fractal time wave will carry the Universe into what is called an
omega point of infinite novelty during which anything and everything
conceivable to the human imagination will occur simultaneously, and time will
end – that will be on 21 December 2012.
It’s called Novelty Theory. If
you can make more sense of it than I can, it’s at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novelty_Theory
At least it’s
25 Angel’s tattoo
pictures of Angel’s tattoo are rapidly disappearing, but here’s a picture that
not only shows you the tattoo on skin, but also shows the original winged lion
from the Book of Kells. This story uses
the particular form of the letter ‘A’ in the tattoo.
This story is
named for the Swiss physician, chemist and alchemist who lived from 1493 -
1541. His true name was Theophrastus
Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, or some variation on that. He took the name Paracelsus later in life,
meaning "superior to Celsus", an early Roman physician. He habitually carried a sword with a large
round pommel, with AZOTH inscribed around it, and in which he carried his
mysterious substance, laudanum. This
was said to be a powder of the reddest colour that yet behaved like a
liquid. It could renew the body, or it
could transmute metals. Powerful
stuff. This was a very interesting man.
27 Age of Leo
There is so
much written about the Precession of the Equinoxes that you don’t need more
information from me do you? You
do? Okay, try these for starters, but
remember that it’s all about as real as my story… Although the equinoxes do,
28 Cup and ring marks
Cup and ring
marks or cup marks are a form of prehistoric art found predominantly in the
upland parts of the British Isles but also in some parts of continental
Europe. They consist of a concave
depression, no more than a few centimetres across, pecked into a rock surface
and often surrounded by concentric circles also etched into the stone.
Sometimes a linear channel called a gutter leads out from the middle. The decoration occurs as a petroglyph on
natural boulders and outcrops and also as an element of megalithic art on
purposely worked megaliths such as the slab cists of the Food Vessel culture,
some stone circles and passage graves such as the clava tombs and on the
capstones at Newgrange. Oh, and no one
actually knows what they were for.
29 The Devil’s
They really do exist.
Here’s information, and a number of photographs. If you look at the aerial photograph, you
can even see the lane and the semicircle of grass where Giles parked.
This is a form
of writing from Ireland in which marks are made generally on the edges of
It does exist,
it does have wireless internet access, and it does have a beer garden, although
I haven’t been there, so the description is my own. A picture is at the bottom of this page:
32 Chesterfield’s Crooked Spire
I see it
often, and I’ve told you the truth, except that, so far as I know, there are no
Ogham runes inscribed on the spire woodwork.
However, it’s true that there is no apparent fixing between the stone
tower, and the beams of the spire resting on it.
33 Masons’ marks
masons left their signatures on the work they did, as masons’ marks. Here are some from that currently very
popular place, Rosslyn Chapel:
figure in my story is not a mason’s mark, but it is real. Almost.
It is an amalgam of two pieces of church graffiti from New Shoreham church
– it’s figure b in the following, with the sword of figure c.
34 Tibshelf, Swadlincote, Swarkestone
not. They exist. I love writing about places near me – we’re
‘Vampyre’, which precedes this story in season 2, is set in Carlisle. Before I saw ‘Vampyre’, I had determined
that Melbourne Church would feature in ‘Paracelsus’ Sword’. I hadn’t, however, read all the information,
and was not aware that Melbourne was given by Henry I to the Bishops of
Carlisle. You see what a spider’s web
Project Paranormal weaves? It is bending
events around itself. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
36 Melbourne, Derbyshire
information on the place and the church and its painting. I’ve twisted it only the tiniest bit – so
far as I’m aware, there is no piece of inscribed glass embedded in the plaster. Please don’t go knocking bits of plaster out
theories about the painting of the Devil:
about the church, including its history and photographs:
crystals for divination goes back thousands of years.
38 The Hellfire Club
Dashwood founded the first and the original Hellfire Club, although it was
never called that in its day. He lived
at Medmenham Abbey until that burned down, and he had the caves excavated from
the local chalk hillside. Here’s more,
together with pictures of the tunnels.
I was going to visit, but I’m glad I didn’t, after finding these. It looks…tacky:
If you decided
that, upon reading this story, you could identify any modern day, living
personage among the Friars of St Francis, that’s just your imagination,
right? No suing.