Something strange is going on at an ancient Roman ruin in London and only Giles
can make it stop.
The book fell to the carpet and the light shone on the
slumped figure on the bed. His brow was furrowed, and his restless body
shuddered without reason. Trapped in a dream, hovering between waking and
sleeping, the figure remained silent, though the release of a scream might have
been a comfort.
Hours passed and the figure continued to struggle with
his dreams. Just before dawn, twin beams crossed the walls as a car pulled in
the drive. The figure stilled, waiting. Voices, too quiet to be understood,
crossed the courtyard. A light girlish laugh, followed by a deeper chuckle
drifted to sleeping but attentive ears. A door closed, nearly too silent to be
heard. Giles finally fell into a deep dreamless sleep, assured that his friends
were home and safe.
Late morning found Buffy and Giles discussing the
previous night’s battle over tea.
“You should have seen this thing, Giles! It was huge
and all brownish grey. It was easily ten feet tall but it blended perfectly
with the rocks up there. It’s a good thing all that bulk slowed it down; if it
was fast as well as strong and big, we’d never have slayed it.”
“So it was exactly as I warned you it would be?” Giles
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yes, your research was very
helpful, thank you. But until I actually laid eyes on that thing… it’s hard to
imagine from the book, you know.”
“The book had pictures.”
“Little ones! And no colour – just a drawing.”
“Either way, it didn’t exactly convey ‘ten feet tall,
six tons and made of stone’.”
“That is a direct quote from the book.”
“Aren’t you pleased I was paying attention?”
Buffy suddenly laughed. “I feel as if I went back in
time. You being all condescending, me being all…”
“Impertinent? Disrespectful? Over-confident?” Giles
“I was going to say witty.”
Angel’s entrance derailed the good-natured bickering
before it got too heated. “Did you tell him how huge that thing was, Buffy? And
you left the axe in the car.”
Angel set a large steel double-bladed axe on the
table, or rather, what was left of a large steel axe. The blades were both
chipped and dulled beyond re-sharpening, and the head dangled off the
splintered wooden handle.
“I was kind of working up to the axe, Angel.”
Giles groaned as he looked at it. It was obviously
destroyed beyond repair, which was unfortunate, given its rarity and cost. A
weapons quality medieval axe wasn’t exactly something he could pick up in the
“You paid enough attention to be able to quote
sections of the book back to me, but you forgot that the stone demon couldn’t
be damaged with conventional weapons?”
“I really didn’t like the idea of Angel going in
without a weapon. I had that troll hammer you sent us after, which worked like
a charm, you’ll be happy to know.”
“And once you realized that conventional weapons
wouldn’t work, just like I told you before you left, what did Angel do?”
Buffy looked down at her teacup to hide a smile. It
was up to Angel to recount this aspect of the battle.
“Well, need is the mother of invention as you well
know, so I… threw rocks at it.”
Buffy couldn’t stop her snicker this time. “They were
really big rocks, honey. More like boulders, in fact.”
“It was a very clever idea, Angel. Rather like cutting
diamond with diamond – it would be damaged by being struck with the same
substance it was made of.”
“Thank you, Giles. I was impressed with how well it
worked. I wasn’t so impressed with Buffy describing the image I made, heaving
rocks at an enormous demon.”
Buffy was laughing outright now. “Like a little David
and Goliath, right in the middle of Wales,
Giles. You should have been there.”
Giles tried to keep a straight face as a mental
picture formed, but Angel’s sharp eyes caught every twitch.
“Tell me Buffy – did he throw them overhand or
Giles’ and Buffy’s laughter followed Angel out the
door as he headed back to the apartment to read in peace.
Later that day, Giles was busy in the study, finding
homes for all the books and supplies from the Marchman’s attic. Too many of
these arcane objects required special storage; soon he himself could end up
with an eerie attic filled with ominous glass jars and dark wooden boxes. He
shuddered at the thought.
The cheerful ringing of the telephone pulled Giles
from his dismal contemplations. He briskly greeted the caller, hoping it was
something simple that would let him get back to his project. Soon, however, he
was taking notes and asking probing questions, all thoughts of shelving books
banished by the intriguing situation he was learning about.
The grey sky faded to black as he pulled websites up
on his laptop and books from his shelves. By the time Buffy came looking for
him at tea-time, he’d covered five pages with his meticulous notes.
Over Martha’s delicious chops, Giles told Buffy and
Angel about their newest client.
“How do you two feel about a trip to London?” Giles
asked between bites.
“Considering the last time I went to London we all got
kidnapped, not so good,” Buffy answered.
“But this time I’ll be there to watch your back,”
Buffy smiled gently at him, but it was Giles who
“Besides which, Harrods,” Giles said. “Sorry Angel,
even you can’t compete with shopping.”
Giles and Angel both laughed at Buffy’s delighted, and
somewhat mercenary, grin.
“So is it all just shopping, or is there something to
look into as well?” Buffy asked.
“Since you asked, there is something. I got a call
today from the Museum of London
which manages the Temple
of Mithras historic site
in Temple Court
(link). They’ve been having some issues with property damage. At first, they
assumed it was teenage vandals, though they couldn’t work out how it was done.
They hoped to catch the perpetrators in the act and hired a security company to
patrol the area. Despite the ever-increasing number of guards, the damage
continued. They were considering closing the site entirely when the young man
who called us, a Mr. Fellows, had a flash of inspiration. He’s obviously got
quite the imagination, since his idea was to investigate the original site of
“What did he find, Giles?” Buffy asked.
“The property damage involves missing stones. The Temple
is merely a ruin,” Giles lectured, “a ruin made of stones mortared together to
form the surviving foundation. The stones have been disappearing from the site
in Temple Court. Fellows found the missing stones, carefully set up as they
were in the Temple Court. He tells me that it appears as though someone is
trying to rebuild the Temple of Mithras in its original location.”
“It’s never a good idea to go messing with historic
sites. Especially sacred historic sites,” Angel said seriously.
“You think it might be Mithras himself?” Buffy asked
worriedly. “I’m not a fan of godly enemies.”
Giles shuddered at the thought. As interesting as the
case was, he suddenly wanted to let Fellows sort it out on his own. Despite his
emotional reaction, logic won out. “I doubt it’s the God himself, Buffy. It
would be out of character for a God to resort to such pathetic tactics.
Currently, Fellows is going to the old site every morning and returning the
stones to their proper place. Surely a God would do something that can’t be
undone so easily.”
“Do you have any ideas what else might be causing
this, Giles?” Angel asked.
“Ideas aplenty, Angel. But until we actually
investigate the phenomenon for ourselves, I think I’ll keep my hypothesis to
“You just don’t want to admit that you haven’t got a
clue, Giles,” Buffy teased. “Should we head up to the city tonight, or is there
more research to do?”
“I think I can be prepared for the journey by this
evening. Hopefully we’ll get this sorted out early enough to be home in time
for Bonfire Night.”
“You’re just excited about this year’s batch of
“I’d hate to miss the local cider,” Angel put in.
“You two reminisce about the alcohol; I’m going to
pack.” This time, it was Buffy who left the room muttering.
It was almost 7:30, and well after sunset when they
set off. Martha and John had already gone home, so Giles locked the big front
door while Angel locked the kitchen door. Buffy was still bringing the last of
her baggage down the stairs from the flat, so she locked up the garage as she
Eying her luggage, Angel commented “I hope we are
coming home after sunset. I’d hate to have to avoid the sun with all your bags
taking up the space.”
“Think of it as extra cover, honey,” Buffy said
sweetly. “We’ll just pile them on top of you.”
The routine was well established by now. As long as
they traveled by night, Angel drove. Buffy took the back seat since she usually
fell asleep, and Giles sat up front, ostensibly to navigate, though Angel
generally didn’t need a navigator. Eventually the older man would slump into
sleep himself, and Angel would drive silently through the darkness.
It only took a couple of hours to get to London
and it was still early, so tonight was atypical. The drive was spent in
discussion, Giles telling Buffy and Angel what he’d read about Mithras.
“The cult of Mithras is what is know as a ‘mystery
religion’. Only initiates to the religion knew the methods of worship. In fact,
all that is known of the religion today has been extrapolated from
archeological knowledge and examination of the remaining artifacts; the temple art
and the temples themselves.”
“Wait, cult?” Buffy asked. “Like ‘drink the purple
Kool-Aid and the spaceship will come take you to heaven’ kind of cult?”
“Actually I was using it more in the general sense of
religion. However, the use of the term ‘cult’ in reference to Mithras worship
probably has something to do with the competition between Mithraic worship and
Christianity. As Christianity drew more and more adherents, other religions,
pagan religions, were weakened, attacked and finally driven into extinction.
Mithraism in particular was assailed as it was incredibly popular in the Roman
Empire in the first to third centuries.”
“Attacked in what way, Giles?” Angel asked, glancing
away from the road. “Are we dealing with a history of bloodshed?”
“It wasn’t a true religious war, not like the
Crusades. I’m sure there was some violence involved, though that didn’t figure
into my reading. Mostly the books discuss ways Christianity absconded with
Mithraic tradition. For example, the most important day for Mithras worship was
December 25th. Obviously Christians also used that date as a holy
“And the religion eventually
disappeared,” Angel said.
“Leaving only a few ruins and
objets d’art to tantalize future generations,” Giles agreed. “Hopefully Mr.
Fellows can tell us more about the actual Temple
in London and
its archeological value.”
With nothing case-related left to
talk about, the group discussed local village gossip until the lights of London
brightened the horizon.
The next morning Giles and Buffy
took the tube to Bank station and followed Mr. Fellows’s direction to Queen
Victoria Street and the current location of the Temple
of Mithras. They were
supposed to meet him at the ruins, a potentially daunting prospect in the middle
However, the streets were nearly deserted in the dismal dampness of early
November, so Mr. Fellows was easy to spot. As they got closer, it became
apparent that Mr. Fellows would have been obvious anyway. Despite his youth, he
wore an ill-fitted brown suit with ink stains and dust on the sleeves.
“He looks like he could be in a
movie – the eccentric but brilliant young archeologist who cares for nothing
but his work. He’d be taken advantage of by his older, less accomplished
colleagues, but at the end he’d get the girl and the recognition from the
academic community,” Buffy muttered.
As Mr. Fellows approached, Giles
shushed her, even though he couldn’t help but agree.
“Mr. Fellows, I’m Rupert Giles and
this is my colleague Buffy Summers. Thank you for meeting us so early and on
such a miserable day.”
“It’s quite all right, Mr. Giles.
I’d have to come down here anyway to return the usual mislaid stones,” Mr.
Fellows said, indicating the duffle bag at his feet. “Besides, I have great
hopes that you can solve this problem. The early morning trek while carrying a
stone of stones,” Mr. Fellows grinned at his own witticism, “is getting more
Giles grinned politely at the weak
pun, and then asked Mr. Fellows to retell the story of the paranormal
happenings, a request Mr. Fellows was only too happy to fulfill. His version of
the events was so filled with drama and excitement, mystery and brilliance that
it reminded Buffy and Giles of the weak movie plot Buffy had cast the poor
archeologist in. However, they both managed to remain professional and keep
their eyes from rolling and revealing their boredom in what was run-of-the-mill
for them, but Remarkable Events for Mr. Fellows.
Eventually, Mr. Fellows story
wound down, and Giles was able to question him about the specifics of the
events as they followed the archeologist beyond the fence and into the ruins of
the Temple to
return the stones to their appropriate places.
“Tell me, Mr. Fellows, did the
night guards mention paranormal phenomenon while they were guarding the site?
Any cold spots, moving lights, odd shadows or sounds?” Buffy asked.
“I never heard of them seeing or
noticing anything. But they didn’t strike me as a very sensitive lot, you know.
They were rather stolid and single-minded. Not the sorts of types to be
receptive to supernatural events. And please, Miss Summers, call me Robert.”
As distasteful as the man’s odd
combination of flirting and arrogance was, they still needed his information
and his access to the sites. As Robert led them on foot to the original
location of the Temple of Mithras,
he fortunately changed his topic from the psychic deadness of security guards
and told them about the discovery of the Temple.
“The Blitz did a real number on London.
As much physical damage as there was, it seems like the emotional impact on the
populace was even worse. People left town themselves, or if they couldn’t
leave, they sent their children out of town. However, as a Mithraic scholar, I
can’t help but have some fondness for the Blitz. The Temple
was discovered during reconstruction of a building damaged by German bombs. The
new building was a high rise and required a much deeper foundation, which uncovered
the Temple and
the Tauroctony along with some other figures.”
“Tauroctony?” Buffy questioned.
“It’s a relief carving that is
central to Mithraic worship. It shows the God slaying a bull, along with some
other astrological details. It is on display at the Museum
of London, if you are
interested, Miss Summers. Or may I call you Buffy?” Fortunately, before Buffy
had to respond to that question, they arrived at their destination.
It was a tall grey building with
an imposing front entrance that Robert walked right past. He led them down an
alley to a small grey door, nearly invisible against the concrete walls. He
pulled out a key card and swiped it over an electronic pad. Pulling the door
open, he ushered them down a dingy, dimly lit stairwell. Three floors down, he
pulled open another door and revealed… a parking garage.
“We find the stones lined up over
there,” Robert said, pointing to an area in the corner of the garage. “When we
first investigated the site, stones had been disappearing for a few weeks, so
there were enough stones to make an obvious pattern and enough to have a few
stacked on top of each other. Now that I’m checking here every morning, I
usually find only five or six stones.”
Buffy walked over to the area of
the garage that was indicated while Giles finished talking to Robert. With the
archeologist sent on his way, Giles watched Buffy pace out an area similar in
size to the ruins in Temple Court.
“Sorry, Giles, I’m not seeing
anything here. I think we’ll have to come back tonight with Angel and see if he
senses anything. He’s far more attuned to ‘psychic vibrations’.”
“Thank you for trying, Buffy. And
you sound like Sylvia Browne – please stop.”
“At least we learned more about
Mithras and this site in particular. It still all seems rather vague, though.”
“The joys of mystery religions.
And meeting Mr. Fellows was helpful for more than his ‘expertise’ in Mithras
and the Temple of
London – I have his keys
and access card to both these sites. We’ll be able to come back here this
evening without our eccentric little guide.”
“Darn. I was looking forward to
his attempts to flirt with me while Angel glowered at him.”
Angel sat patiently reading in
their hotel room. The sun was just setting and Buffy was due back any moment.
Buffy and Giles had returned from their daylight visit to the original and
current sites of the Temple
of Mithras to tell Angel
everything they’d learned from Mr. Fellows and their plan to revisit the
locations by night. Then they’d both gone out to enjoy the city, leaving Angel
to sleep through the day alone in the hotel. Just as he finished another
chapter, Angel heard the sound of Buffy’s key in the door.
She tossed her shopping bags on
the bed and collapsed beside them.
“Good day?” Angel asked with a
“Exhausting day. I went shopping.”
“I could tell.”
“I took advantage of being alone
in the city to do my Christmas shopping for you and Giles, so no peeking. Oh,
and I saw Giles in the lobby as I was heading up here. He said we should relax
for a while. He doesn’t want too many people on the streets when we head out so
he suggested leaving around 10.”
there’s always people on the streets.”
“Do you really mind spending a few
hours with me?” Buffy asked slyly.
At the look on Buffy’s face, a
slow smile spread across Angel’s face. “I suppose it depends on how you want to
pass the time.”
It was nearly 11 by the time
Angel, Buffy and Giles returned to the Temple
of Mithras on Queen
Victoria Street. Giles quickly and quietly unlocked
the gate protecting the site with the key he’d borrowed from Robert Fellows and
led the way down among the ruins. They stopped in the area Robert had pointed
out as having stones disturbed most frequently. Giles and Buffy watched Angel
anxiously; he was far more attuned to the paranormal energy of a place than
either of them. His senses would tell them if they were in the right place.
With a sigh, Angel shook his head.
“Sorry, folks. This isn’t the place.”
“Nothing?” Giles asked,
“Oh, I can feel how old these
stones are. I get a sense of weight, darkness and dampness, like they were
originally underground. But that’s not something that can make changes to the
existing environment. It’s too… inactive, inanimate.”
“Uh, are you sure?” Buffy asked.
“Because I’d love to hear you explain that.” She pointed at the stones rolling
past her feet.
“Fascinating,” Giles murmured. His
eyes were trained on the stones, which continued to roll, even uphill, under
the fence and out of the site. Buffy, Giles and Angel exchanged surprised
looks, then began to follow the stones before they vanished into the night.
The stones traced the same route
Robert had led Buffy and Giles on in the early morning. The grade of the road
didn’t seem to impact their motion; nor did the closed and locked door of the
building that was built over the original Temple
location. Instead, the stones simply vanished when they reached the door.
Giles quickly pulled out the key
card and opened the door. They knew where the stones were going to end up, but
they wanted to keep the moving rocks in sight as much as possible. The trio
hurried down the stairs and into the empty parking garage. The stones were already
rolling into place in the far corner of the garage that Robert had pointed out
Again, Buffy and Giles watched
Angel. This time, they weren’t disappointed.
“The power is definitely coming
from here. The power is in this place, in these stones, but it’s all channeled
through a single spirit. I don’t get any real sense of evil, though. Whatever
this ghost wants, he’s all about protection.” Angel swallowed hard as he
remembered Lynnette Marchman’s plea to protect her son.
There was no time to say anything
more. Giles watched in disbelief as Angel and Buffy were knocked to the ground,
pushed away, driven out of the garage and the door slammed behind them.
Then a light flashed, briefly
blinding him, and when Giles could see again, he wasn’t alone.
The force that pushed them out was
implacable. They both fought with all of their considerable strength, but
despite their struggles, they weren’t released until they were standing in the
alley with the door to the building closed and locked behind them.
Buffy was breathing hard as she
stared at the door. “You okay?” she asked.
“Fine. Not a bruise, not a pulled
muscle, not even a broken nail. Just… surprised.”
“So, how do we get back in? Giles
has the key.”
“We have superpowers. We break it
down.” She smiled grimly.
Fifteen minutes later, neither of
them was smiling.
“This is crazy. This door isn’t
that strong; we should have been able to get through easily.” Buffy’s worry for
Giles was starting to show in her voice.
“Whoever kicked us out is serious
about keeping us out,” Angel said.
Buffy just kept pulling at the
door, trying to get back to Giles.
Giles stared at the figure in
front of him. It was male, dressed in robes of an ancient style and
stereotypically ghostly - transparent and floating a few inches above the
Giles felt slightly out of his
depth. He was used to taking action – doing research, performing a spell of
banishment or an exorcism to remove a restless spirit, or helping Buffy and
Angel physically slay the corporeal demons they faced. This silent staring
contest wasn’t teaching him anything and certainly wasn’t helping get rid of
the rock-stealing phantom.
Feeling foolish, Giles cleared his
throat and spoke to the apparition. “Uh, hello. I’m Rupert Giles and I’m here
to help you.” Giles braced himself for another attack by the angry force that
removed Buffy and Angel. Instead, he got a slow, see-through smile and a
whispered “thank you.”
Giles blinked in surprise, but
managed to question the spirit. Eventually, the story was revealed.
“I am Antonius, the last follower
of Mithras. I was the priest of this church and pledged my life to the worship
of the Bullslayer. The numbers in our Temple
were small, though we were zealous. Only the most devoted worshippers came
here. Sadly, despite our fidelity, our lives were limited and the God fell out
of favour, obscured by worship of Christ.”
“Except you remained with your
temple.” Giles said, fascinated by the story.
“I remained. Despite my death, I
remained. My loyalty was rewarded – my God set me here to guard this holy
place. Years I passed in darkness while the world moved on outside my
precincts. Until one day…”
“Your temple was discovered.”
“Yes. Our revered art, our
treasures were revealed to the sun. The sacred ground was trampled by
non-initiates. But I still remained, silent and watchful. Mithras bid me guard,
and I did as I was bid.”
“But the Temple
was discovered in the 1950’s, several decades ago. You’ve been guarding this
location for centuries; why did you suddenly start changing things?”
“As long as one single stone
remained in place, the Temple
of Mithras was intact.
Despite the removal of our foundations, our God still remained in this place.”
“They missed something when they
moved the foundations to Temple
Court,” Giles said wonderingly.
“Yes. One stone remained, embedded
in this new building which surrounds us. But then it was removed.” The priest
pointed at a place in the wall that Giles hadn’t noticed. There was a deep
gouge in the concrete. The tale was obvious – someone had crashed into the wall
with their car and when the damage was cleaned up, the last stone, along with
the broken pieces of concrete, was disposed of. “I feel torn in two! This
ground is still sacred, still sanctified by Mithras. But the stones call out
for the touch of the God, this land cries for return of the Temple.”
“And every night, you try to
rebuild the Temple,
stone by stone.” Giles was touched by Antonius’s story. The priest was patient
and mild – until Angel revealed the presence of a spirit, the priest had
avoided interaction with the people who constantly trampled through his Temple.
His work was constantly undone, and still all he did was unwearyingly start
over. Ideas of how to help flitted through Giles’s mind, but he discarded them
all until he was left with only one suggestion.
“I could go and get one of the
stones and try to hide it here so it wouldn’t be found. Would that let you
return to your guardianship?”
“Please, Rupert Giles. I wish to
be truly at peace. When you came, I knew I had found a way.”
Giles eyed the suddenly anxious
priest. He had a feeling Antonius’s plan would involve a lot more investment
than hiding a stone, but he didn’t think the priest would hurt him. “Please,
tell me how I can help.” Giles said, squaring his shoulders.
“This ground is sacred. The ground
the Temple has
been resurrected on is not. I cannot bless the Temple;
I am tied to this location. However, if there were a living priest of Mithras,
a priest who could rededicate the Temple,
the God would permit me to rest.”
Giles stared. “And you want me to
be this priest? But I’m not a worshipper of Mithras! Surely Mithras wants
someone… dedicated to his cause. And shouldn’t I be a soldier? Wouldn’t Buffy
or Angel be better?”
“Your friends are unacceptable.
The female, while strong, is a woman. The male is a champion, but how could a
being of darkness revere the Bullslayer, a being of light? They are anathema.”
“They weren’t hurt when you
removed them?” Giles asked. Their safety was always on his mind, but he
couldn’t bring himself to ask until now.
“The God removed them. And, no
they weren’t hurt. They struggle to reach you, but Mithras will not let them
“Buffy won’t be happy about that,”
Giles muttered, a slight smile on his lips. But the thought was fleeting, the
idea of becoming a priest of Mithras overrode all other concerns. “If I agree
to your plan, what does the God demand of me? I cannot dedicate myself to him
as freely as you have done.”
“Mithras requests only the
consecration of his temple, and your acknowledgement of his existence. Any
other service you offer to him is of your own free choice.”
“And that will free you and stop
the paranormal activities?” The priest inclined his head in a nod. There was no
entrapping loophole that Giles could see. Slowly, he too nodded. “I accept.”
Angel had gone on a frustrating
prowl around the building. Besides this small door to the parking garage, there
was the main entrance which was too well lit and public to use for break and
entry, the delivery bays which were currently in use, and the car entrance to
the garage itself, which was protected by the same entity which was keeping
them out of the small doors. He returned to Buffy just in time to see her let
out an ‘oof’ as the door she had been pulling on for the last thirty minutes
“Giles!” Buffy and Angel exclaimed
together. “Thank god you are okay! We’ve been trying to find a way in to rescue
“I’m fine and I’m so glad to see
you are too. Antonius told me you were okay, but I told him I needed to see you
myself and explain the situation.”
“Who is Antonius?” Buffy asked.
“What situation?” was Angel’s
Quickly Giles explained everything
Antonius had told him about the Temple
and his own origins. Buffy and Angel were fascinated, but when Giles told them
Antonius’s plan to initiate Giles as the next priest and keeper of the Temple,
they both started trying to talk him out of this.
“At least let us come with you,
Giles! You don’t know what this initiation is. You need someone down there
looking out for your best interests,” Buffy urged.
“If you are determined to go
through with this, at least let us come and protect you,” Angel added. “This
type of power usage can attract some nasty characters.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. Antonius was
quite clear on this. The rites of Mithras are a secret and must remain that
way. Imagine. I’ll be the only living person who knows the true secrets of
Mithras,” Giles mused. Shaking off his contemplation, Giles continued his
discussion with his unimpressed audience. “Besides, you are both anathema in
the eyes of the God. Despite your martial experience, both women and creatures
of the night are forbidden from the Temple,
which is why Mithras removed you in the first place. I’ll be fine. I trust
Antonius, and we’re protected from harm by a God that is capable of keeping you
two out of a place you were really trying to get into.” Giles smiled. “Go back
to the hotel. I’ll meet you there.”
Buffy scoffed at that suggestion.
“Yeah right, Giles. I’ll just head back to the room and get a good night’s
Angel leaned against the wall,
making himself comfortable. “We may not be able to watch the initiation, but
we’ll watch your back, even if we are further away than we’d like.”
Giles looked at them
affectionately. He hugged Buffy and squeezed Angel’s shoulder before heading
back down the dark stairs.
The shadows seemed deeper this
time as he descended the musty stairwell. The last flight of stairs even
sounded different under his shoes – hollow, like the space had gotten larger.
Giles tried to laugh off the idea as an overactive imagination, but the flicker
of firelight from the bottom of the stairs wasn’t the effect of his fancies.
Just before he entered the parking garage, a voice shouted.
“STOP! Who dares enter this sacred
Somehow, Giles knew how to answer.
“A supplicant, a disciple, a soldier.”
“What is your petition, who do you
follow, is your sword bloodied?”
“I ask for access to this Temple,
for I follow Mithras and have bloodied my sword in his name!”
“Bind your eyes. Only Mithras
grants vision.” Obediently, Giles dug a handkerchief out of his pocket and
“Step forward to your fate. May
Mithras grant you mercy.”
Giles breathed deeply and stepped
forward, careful to show no hesitation or fear. After twelve steps, the voice
“STOP! Who dares approach this
“A supplicant, a disciple, a
soldier,” Giles answered again.
“What is your petition, who do you
follow, is your sword bloodied?”
“I ask to serve Mithras, for I am
his subject and have slaughtered many to bring glory to him.”
hands. Only Mithras grants strength.” Giles was confused who was tying him, but
he felt cold, strange hands wind something thick and sticky around his wrists.
to your fate. May Mithras grant you courage.”
breath and Giles confidently stepped forward. This time the voice stopped him
after only two steps.
dares approach Mithras?”
a disciple, a soldier.”
“What is your
petition, who do you follow, is your sword bloodied?”
“I ask to enter
the priesthood, for I wish to lead others to Mithras and will gladly throw
myself on my sword should the Bullslayer demand it of me.”
“Bind his feet.
Only Mithras grants freedom.” Again, the cold hands tied his feet.
to your fate. May Mithras grant you life.”
He tried to
step forward. There was a little give in the bindings around his feet, and
Giles thought he could manage a couple of tiny steps without falling. But the
hands came again as soon as he tried to raise his foot. They shoved him down,
giving him no time to get his trapped hands up to protect his face. Somehow the
landing was gentle, even without catching himself. He found himself rolling
over and over, as if he was being pushed. When it finally stopped, he was
dazed. The bindings around his hands and feet were cut off and the blindfold
whipped away. Blinking to adjust his eyes, Giles could see stone walls covered
in carvings, statues set in niches, flickering torches, wide benches and a very
solid and impressive looking Antonius standing in front of an altar.
bloodied your sword in the name of Mithras, to bring glory to Mithras and
offered your own life to Mithras. But Mithras is the God of Light. He demands
only one thing – compassion for the dead.”
A rushing sound
filled Giles’s ears and visions flashed before his eyes. He saw battles; he
slayed demons and vampires and the one human he couldn’t regret. He saw deaths
he hadn’t caused but hadn’t stopped: Jesse, Jenny, the Watchers, Anya, Ella,
the Slayers, the entire Coven. He saw deaths that hadn’t happened; Xander and Willow
turned by the Master, Cordelia brutalized by Hellhounds, Faith turned into
another Adam. He saw murders he hadn’t committed; Dawn smothered in her sleep
to keep Glory from ending the world, a family killed in a drunken car crash as
he mourned Buffy. He saw his own deaths; turned into a vampire and staked by
Buffy, tortured to death by Angelus, committing suicide out of grief and guilt.
visions cleared and Giles stood, tears pouring down his face in front of
The priest’s voice was soft as he
spoke to Giles. “You are a soldier. Death surrounds you; death at your hand,
your death at the hand of others. But Mithras is always with you. Death need
not be a terror. Trust in the God to guide you and you shall be merciful,
courageous and free.” Antonius laid his hands on Giles’s shoulders and looked
deeply in the living man’s eyes. “Mithras accepts you as his priest. He demands
that his Temple
stand on sacred ground and thanks you for your service. Let your mind be at
rest and your soul be at ease.”
Giles found himself comforted. He
looked around the Temple
– it was filled with spirits, those hands that had led him through the
initiation ceremony. Together, the living and dead broke bread and drank in
honour of their God. As the bread and wine disappeared, the ghost of the Temple
faded around them, until Giles once again found himself in a parking garage
with an incorporeal being.
It started small. At first only
Angel could sense it – it felt like a pressure in the ears, a developing sinus
cold, not that he’d had one of those in a couple of hundred years. Eventually
it built until Buffy could sense it as well. She drew closer to Angel who was
scanning the alley carefully.
“What is that? It feels… heavy.”
“It’s the power, the magic being
“Is this what the Hellmouth felt
like to you?”
Angel stopped peering into the
shadows to consider that question. “Not really. This is far more neutral; I
could feel the evil in the Hellmouth. But like the Hellmouth, this is going to
draw interest from some very unpleasant characters.”
“Like him?” Buffy pointed at the
mouth of the alley where a large, furry creature was sniffing the air. “Glad I
brought something shiny in addition to something pointy,” she quipped, pulling
a long dagger from her boot. The creature lumbered towards them, moonlight
glinting off a grinning mouth full of pointy teeth.
“Decapitation is our best bet with
this guy, Buffy,” Angel said, pulling his own short sword from under his
“Why is always decapitation with
the ones with long teeth?”
She let the foul-breathed creature
get within arms reach. As it swiped at her with claws extended, she launched
herself in the air, snapping her foot out in a kick which connected with the
thing’s jaw. Angel waited until she landed and danced back a few steps, then
swung at its flailing hands with his sword. A gruesome scream split the air as
a furry hand hit the pavement. Buffy watched from her position at Angel’s back
as Angel kept the sword moving, separating the demon’s head from its shoulders,
there being no neck to speak of, in one smooth motion.
“Beautifully done.” Buffy leaned
in for a kiss. They didn’t have much time to enjoy their victory as another
angry roar came from the mouth of the alley. “But I call this one.”
Smiling, Angel leaned against the
wall and watched Buffy spin, punch and kick the vampire into submission before
she pulled a stake and plunged it into her enemy’s heart, turning him to dust
in an instant.
Buffy grinned at Angel. “I wonder
how much fun we’ll get to have before Giles comes back.” She tucked her stake
in the back of her pants and pushed her hair out of her eyes.
“Well, it’s not a ten feet tall
six ton stone demon, but I’m enjoying myself.”
The demons had stopped showing up
an hour before dawn. While they disposed of the bodies that didn’t conveniently
disintegrate in nearby dumpsters, they anxiously watched the door, mindlessly
arguing about number of kills and best moves. Finally, just before Buffy was
about to send Angel running for the hotel to avoid the sun, the door opened.
Giles stepped out into the alley,
and both Buffy and Angel breathed a sigh of relief. Their relief turned to
confusion and concern as he just stood there, blinking at them.
“Giles? Are you okay?” Buffy asked
Giles stumbled forward and pulled
Buffy into a hug, his free hand reaching out for Angel. “It was… incredible. An
eye opening, traumatizing, life changing, amazing experience. I can’t talk
Buffy and Angel exchanged amused
looks and just led Giles out of the alley and back to the hotel.
It was just after dusk when Giles
returned alone to the Temple
site at Queen Victoria Street.
Despite its ruined state, in his mind’s eye Giles could see it restored to its
former grandeur, the way he’d seen it last night: filled with worshippers, lit
by torches, voices rising in songs to their God.
Again, he somehow knew just what
to do. He lit incense and candles, quietly spoke a few prayers and broke bread
scattering the crumbs on the ruins. He smiled at the image of flocks of birds
that would cover the stones tomorrow. He poured the wine and water on the
stones, then picked up the small knife.
“I will gladly throw myself on my
sword should the Bullslayer demand it of me,” he whispered, cutting a short but
deep slice into his thumb. The blood dripped down onto the stones. Smiling,
Giles wrapped his hand in the handkerchief he’d found in his jacket pocket.
“Rest well, Antonius.”
He was just drifting off when the
low growl of Angel’s Porsche penetrated his room. Vaguely he recalled them
mentioning some unusual events in a village a few miles away. He waited for his
usual worry. Tonight though, he slipped into a dreamless sleep; his mind and
heart eased by the compassion and caring of Mithras.
Things I learned:
Museum of London
Some London Temple of Mithras