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Wreckers

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Dark Star

Season 3

Part 7

 

**

 

Summary: "There's queer things goes on there." ~ Quote from Jamaica Inn.

 

**

 

Wreckers

 

*

 

Cornwall, 1645

 

He couldn't run as fast as the older men, and he found himself trailing behind. At least, that's what he told himself, and from ahead he could hear the excited shouts over the howl of the wind. The main road winds down toward the sea, and he moved away from the road and hurried across the grass slope. He skittered down the muddy track, people pushing past him on the precarious path, desperate to get to the action before others reached there first.

 

The beach looked like a battlefield in the darkness; it was littered with bodies and debris, and his stomach lurched. His father appeared out of the darkness, the burning torch in his hand illuminating his mouth into a twisted parody of a smile, and called to him. "This way, John! Come on…"

 

He followed his father reluctantly. He looked up as he crunched over the stones, he couldn't miss the reckless tilt of the wrecked ship towering over them. He was close enough to hear the sounds he dreaded, the moans of the helpless victims that have dragged themselves ashore, and worse - picking his way round the lifeless bodies currently being ignored on the rocky beach.

 

 

His father joined the rabble scrambling over the broken timber to get into the cargo hold of the wreck. He handed his torch to his son and indicated upwards as he splashed into the shallow water and disappeared into the gaping hole in the side of the ship. The boy ran to the side of the vessel, scrambled up and over the keel, the torch held easily in one hand. It all felt dreadfully familiar, because even at his young age he had done this countless times.

 

He collected everything that he could move, and helped himself to as much as he could He moved round behind the helm, stepped over some broken timber and slipped on something wet on the deck. He managed to stop himself falling flat on his face, but he was alarmed that the timber beside him was moving. He bent down and threw the timber to one side, and he saw one of the ship's' crew lying there on the deck.

 

"Hang on," he told the injured man. "I'll help." He ignored the thought that his father would be displeased if he allowed another to get to the spoils first, and he squirmed closer to the man.

 

The injured man tried to speak, but his words were carried away by the wind, and the boy knelt down to help him get up. It was only then that he realised that the sailor's wounds were fatal; there was terrible damage to his chest, and one of his legs was gone; it had been because of all the blood that the sailor lost, that he had slipped in the first place.

 

He hesitated, and looked down over the side of the ship to the feverish activity on the beach. He should be pillaging as he was supposed to do, but he couldn't just leave the man there.

 

He swallowed nervously, made himself place his hand comfortingly on the man's shoulder, and made himself look at the terror on the dying man's face. He started talking; he had no idea what he was saying, he just tried to make the man's final moments a little less lonely. Afterwards, he stood up; he couldn't bear to steal from him now, and he walked away to find other plunder; he was subdued as he did what he had been told he must.

 

Below, many of the villagers were struggling back to their homes with the gifts bestowed on them by God, and there would be much merry making at the Inns and with their families tonight.

 

He glanced back sadly at where the dead man lay hidden by the darkness. He felt like a freak; nobody else seemed to think the way that he did, but he couldn't help it.

 

This felt wrong. Very wrong, and he vowed that one day, he would do something about it.

 

**

 

Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry,

For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

 

 ~ Steeleye Span, and Cadgwith Anthem.

 

**

 

Bodmin Moor, 2006.

 

The drive across Moor seemed to go on forever, and Buffy was looking forward to stopping off at the Inn to get something to eat. Giles might have found the wild and windswept openness of the area disquieting, if it wasn't for the fact that he knew that the Moors actually contained an abundance of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, stone circles and other places that interested him.  Even so, with the torrential rain tumbling off the roof of the Discovery, and the road stretching off into the distance, the term 'God forsaken' popped into his head. Even Buffy was quieter than usual, and he wondered if she too was affected by the openness of the area.

 

As if on cue, she stretched, and glanced into the back seat to where Angel was curled up under the rug. One edge had rolled back and his hand was visible on the edge of the seat. She wasn't in any hurry to cover him up again, since there didn't seem any likelihood of the sun touching him in the near future.

 

"How can he manage to sleep?" she grumbled, and Giles knew she hated being cooped up and was getting restless.

 

"Because it's day…?" he suggested, earning him a scowl from his slayer. To change the subject, he said, "The newspapers said there have been seven cases of wrecked boats being washed up on the shore. Up until now, the authorities blamed it on coincidence and the recent bad weather."

 

"But they don't now?"

 

"They do, but I don't. Not since the last wreck." Giles confirmed. "Officially, the circumstances are still down to coincidence, but unofficially… there was an eyewitness."

 

Buffy blinked. "I thought there were no survivors?"

 

"There weren't," Giles said. "But, there are a lot of locals out on the waters round here. They aren't known for talking to outsiders, of course, but…" he smiled conspiratorially at her, "I happen to know one of them."

 

Buffy grinned. "Way to go, Giles!"

 

**

 

Giles parked out the front of the old building, choosing the shadiest spot he could find, in spite of the rain bouncing off the car roof. There were only two other cars in the car park, and Buffy told a sleepy Angel where they were. She opened the window a little to make sure he had enough air to stop the car getting stuffy, but not enough to let much rain into the car, and felt absurdly like she was leaving her pet dog asleep under the rug when she got out of her side of the car and locked the door. The rain was bouncy on her head, and she sprinted over to the porch and waited for Giles to join her. He seemed to be talking to himself inside the car, and she felt a twinge for Angel stuck inside the car while she and Giles went for refreshments.  Her eye was caught by the bright Jamaica Inn sign standing beside the roadway, and decided that the image of a pirate with a parrot perched on his shoulder looked vaguely sinister. 

 

"How old is the Inn?" she asked when Giles had raced across the cobbled courtyard to join her under the porch and they went inside the building. The interior had the expected olde worlde ambience, with its black beams and roaring log fires. The wooden floor had a large red rug covering a hefty portion of it, and the seating was the same bright shade. Several red plastic child seats added a modern but incongruous touch to the surroundings.   

 

"The Inn was built in 1750," Giles replied, ordering a small beer for himself and a  glass of white wine for Buffy. "And it was extended later to include the coach house and stables."

 

They waited for their drinks and then found an empty table. It was still early, and the Inn hadn't really begun to get busy yet. Neither of them was very hungry, and Buffy was worried about Angel marooned outside in the car park. But she was intrigued by the fact that the Inn had a souvenir shop and museum, and wanted to have a quick look at them before they continued on their journey.

 

On the counter in the shop the assistant was putting out some little leaflets. Buffy picked one up and grinned, showing it to Giles. The leaflet said,

 

Paranormal Investigations.

 

Ghosts, paranormal investigations - book a place...if you dare!

If  you're feeling brave, book a place on one of the spooky nights we have planned for 2006 but book early because numbers are strictly limited.

The cost is £90.00 per person…

 

"That's a bit steep," Giles commented.

 

The assistant couldn't resist the bait. "We've had a lot of interest," she told them proudly.

 

"You should be careful of dabbling in things you don't understand," Giles said quietly. "The paranormal is not something you should take lightly."

 

"And we'd know." Buffy grinned, handing a card of her own to the assistant. "It's what we do." The assistant's mouth dropped open when she looked at the card.

 

PROJECT PARANORMAL
We’re here to deal with all your problems – problems you can’t take anywhere else.
Nothing is too strange for us.
Don’t be afraid – give us a call!

 

Giles left Buffy to browse in the gift shop and went through to look the museums. He could hear the assistant quizzing Buffy on what they investigated and if she had seen anything herself. He smiled to himself. Oh, the stories they could tell…

 

Half an hour later, refreshed and revitalised, they returned to the car. The rain had stopped, and Buffy went behind the Discovery to put her purchases in the back of the car and reached across to hand Angel a bottle containing mineral water.

 

"Are you okay?" she asked.

 

"Could do with stretching my legs," he replied unhappily.

 

Buffy handed him a small bag with 'Jamaica Inn' emblazoned across the front. "I thought it might cheer you up," she said softly.

Angel thanked her and took the bag awkwardly. Even now, he was uncomfortable about receiving gifts, and he opened the bag and pulled out a book. Buffy shrugged.

 

"Not very original, I know." She told him. "But they were all over the place."

 

"Jamaica Inn." He said with delight. "I haven't read this for years."

 

"You've read it?" Buffy asked, and the disappointment in her voice was clear to hear.

 

"A long time ago." Angel said hurriedly. "It must be… almost fifty years… I can't really remember much about it."

 

He ducked his head to look at the book, and didn't notice Buffy's dismayed expression.

 

"It's not far now," Giles' voice wafted from the front of the car, as a little gee-up to get going.

Both men winced as Buffy got back in the Discovery, slamming the door, and they finished the last leg of their journey in a strained silence.

 

The directions Giles had been given by his friend Mac took them down a short winding lane where overhanging trees brushed the roof of the car as they passed by. He pulled up outside of a small stone cottage with quaint windows and slate roof. Buffy reached into the back of the car and gave the fringed blanket a poke that was none too gentle.

 

"Unless you're going to stay there all day," she snapped, "We're here."

 

There was a mumble from underneath the blanket, which sounded to Buffy something like, "Hello to you, too."

 

As the holder of the keys, Giles went first and unlocked the door. He had parked the car as close as possible to the cottage, and it was a very overcast day. Angel should be able to make it into the house instead of having to wait until nightfall. Buffy opened the car door and held it open for Angel, as he popped the paperback book inside his jacket, gathered the blanket up and held it over his head as he made a dash for the sanctuary of the interior. He had a moment's hesitation as he reached the threshold, wondering if he would bounce back, but it was a rental accommodation and he passed through without a hitch.

 

Buffy followed at a more leisurely pace, bringing in the luggage from the car. Buffy dropped Angel's bag at, or very nearly, on his foot, and commented, "Some people will do anything to avoid the chores."

 

Angel gazed quizzically at her. "You'd rather I burst into flames?"

 

"Flames?" she retorted. "It's so cloudy out there you can't even see the sun."

 

Before he could reply to her somewhat unfair accusation, she had disappeared, following after Giles in his exploration of the cottage. Angel sighed and picked up his bag. What had he done now?

 

When the bags had been stored in the bedrooms, and the cottage explored, they ended up in the kitchen to have some lunch. Mac - Giles' friend, had offered the use of the cottage, normally run by his wife as a holiday let - if he would come down and look into the odd things that were happening locally. Mac's wife, Tamsin,  had even left them a generous supply of groceries for their use. When they had eaten, Giles rang his friend and told him they had arrived at the cottage.  He thanked his friend for the use of the accommodation, and for his Tamsin's thoughtfulness, and generally chatted with him. Mac promised to drop by later that day to talk to them about the problem.

 

True to his word, a couple of hours later, another car pulled into the drive and Giles went to the door to welcome him.

 

Giles let his friend into the cottage, and led him through to the kitchen, where his companions were. Mac was a big man with a ready smile. His skin had a reddened tint to it, and had obviously been subjected to much weather. He nodded at Buffy and Angel, and sat himself down at the wooden table.

 

"Can I get you something to drink?" Giles asked politely.

 

"Aye," Mac replied with a broad grin. "But none of that hot stuff, you hear?"

 

Buffy blinked, and looked at Giles, not understanding Mac's strange comment. She was surprised that in spite of the man's name, and the fact that his first word to them was "Aye," he clearly wasn't Scottish. Giles crossed to the larder, and pulled out a small bottle of whiskey with a flourish. Tamsin had anticipated that as well.

 

"Just the ticket," Mac grinned appreciatively as Giles poured out a generous glass for him.

 

"So," Giles said, seating himself at the table with the others, "What can you tell us?"

 

Mac nursed his drink, suddenly, Buffy suspected, uncharacteristically shy. "I called you down here because something is going on."

 

"What kind of something?" Buffy asked.

 

"Dunno," he shrugged. "But it ain't right. All them wrecks…" he shrugged again. "It ain't right."

 

"Do you suspect wreckers?" Angel asked.

 

"Wreckers?" Buffy asked.

 

"The name given to those who benefited from the wrecks. There is a theory - largely inspired by the accounts in Daphne Du Maurier's book, Jamaica Inn - that the wreckers caused the wrecks, though it's not really substantiated by actual historical accounts."

 

"Ain't wreckers," Mac said. "The bodies still have their valuables with them." He paused, staring into the glass of whiskey.

 

"Mac…" Giles prompted, and the thick set man seemed to rouse himself.

 

"There's something that was left out of the official reports," he said carefully. "When they found the bodies from the wrecks, they weren’t…" he glanced apologetically at Buffy. "…whole, if you know what I mean."

 

"They'd been mutilated?" she asked, and Mac winced at her brusque tone. What were women coming to these days?

 

"Aye," he said awkwardly. "At first, we was just getting the odd wreck. That's darn rare round here anyway, so extra… we just figured t'was bad luck. Then old Bill reckoned he saw a light out on the shore - real bright it was. Bright as a lighthouse."

 

"Could it have been a lighthouse?" Buffy asked.

 

Mac shook his head. "No, miss. Ain't ever been a lighthouse there. Weren't no other ships here, either."

 

Giles leant closer. "Has anyone else witnessed these lights?" He picked up the bottle and refilled Mac's empty glass.

 

"Aye. Ted and Bert seen 'em since, too." Buffy asked if they could talk to his friends, and he laughed. A big hearty laugh the man had, and she couldn't help but smile with him, but Buffy could sense no malice in it. "I'm afraid not, miss. They won't talk to no outsiders. But Ted…" Mac trailed off and had a big swig of his whiskey. Buffy wanted to shake him.

 

"Ted said his Grandma used to tell a story about these parts." Mac finally said. "About an old hag that used to live round here. Folks said she was a witch…" he hurried on, "Don't know as I believe it myself, you understand. Just telling what I've heard."

 

"We quite understand," Giles said placatingly. "And what did this witch do?"

 

"Well, back then, the locals thought any wrecks washed up was theirs, so to speak. They was poor people, and there weren’t enough money to make a living, and there weren’t enough wrecks for their liking. They asked the old bat to help 'em out."

 

"Did she?"

 

"The story goes that she conjured up the devil to lure them ships in. There is a place close by called the Devil's Frying Pan. Folk sees him go down there one day and he wasn't never seen again."

 

"And the amount of wrecks increased while this… devil was around?"

 

"Oh, aye. Plenty of 'em, by all accounts. At least for a while." Mac stared down at his drink, looking uncomfortable. "Thing is… according to the tale, the ships was lured in by a bright light on the shore. Where there shouldn't have been one, if you get my drift. And now…"

 

"You think the witch is back?" Giles asked.

 

"Never said that," Mac replied cagily. "Just, you know, seems odd to all start up again after so long."

 

**

 

When Buffy emerged from the small bathroom later than night and went into her bedroom, she found Angel curled up on top of the patchwork quilt reading the book she had given him. She closed the door harder than she needed to, and Angel looked over the top of his book. She was brushing her hair savagely, and he hesitated, wondering if he should keep quiet and let the storm wear itself out. Eventually, after she had slammed yet another drawer, he said tentatively, "Do you want to talk about it?"

 

"It?" She turned to glare at him, and he was already wishing he'd kept quiet.

 

"It." He said again. "Buffy… is something bothering you?"

 

She looked away. "No."

 

He put the book down and sat up. He said nothing, just waited. She knew he was watching her, and she fidgeted. "It's nothing," she said finally.

"Did I do something?" he asked, and when she shook her head he added, "Not do something I was supposed to?"

 

"No."

 

At a loss, Angel didn't know what to try next. She'd seemed all right until they'd stopped off at the Jamaica Inn. "Did something happen at the Inn?"

 

Buffy hesitated, and sat herself gingerly on the edge of the bed. "It's silly, Angel. Let it go."

 

He reached over to smoothe her savaged hair with his fingers. "Not if it's making you unhappy. Tell me."

 

She sighed. "It's the book."

 

"I like the book." He still didn't get it. "Did you want to read it?"

 

"You said… that it was fifty years since you'd last read it."

 

Angel dropped his hand away from her face. "I see. And you didn't like being reminded about our age difference?"

 

He sounded hurt, and Buffy took his hand in both of her smaller ones. "Oh, no… that's not what I meant, Angel. It doesn't matter to me how much older you are." She paused, choosing her words. "Its just that…. You've lived so long, and done so much. How can I possibly give you something - ever - that you have never had, or done before?"

 

"Oh, Buffy." He raised his arm, and after a moment she cuddled up against his chest, letting him hug her close. "You do that every day."

 

**

 

The following morning, Giles paid an early visit to the coastguard, hoping to find a lead, but it had not turned up anything that they didn't already know.  Disappointed, Giles returned to the cottage and retreated into more research. Coming up blank, he wondered what to do next, and arranged an appointment to visit the nearest lighthouse, which happened to be at Lizard Point, hoping for some clues or inspiration. Buffy offered to go into town and talk to the locals.

 

"I'm looking forward to visiting the Lizard," Giles confided, putting his coat on. "It's the most southern point in England." He smiled at her. "I've been to the most Northern, so it would be nice…"

 

Buffy grinned at him. "Well, before you get all geeky on me, drop me off in the village, will you?"

 

Giles blinked. "Geeky?"

 

Buffy laughed at his pained expression. "You know what I mean." Wriggling into her jacket, she called up the stairs, "Bye, Angel!" She doubted that he was still awake, but you never knew.

 

On the short journey down to the village, Buffy asked, "What actually is a Cadgwith?"

 

"I thought I was a Geek?" he shot back, but, as she'd known he would, he couldn't resist answering the question.

 

"The original name for Cadgwith was Caswyth - thought to be derived from the Cornish word for thicket." He pulled up outside the village supermarket. "The valley was once densely wooded."

 

Buffy's expression was sober. "And now, all they get round here is dead people."

 

****

 

The slope down to the Devil's Frying Pan looked foreboding in the glint of moonlight, and the impression was not lessened by hearing the crash of the waves down below. She paused at the top of the slope, the wind fresh as it blew in from the sea, and she looked down into a black hole below. She swallowed.

 

"You okay?"

 

"Yeah." she lied. "I asked Giles why this place was called the Frying Pan, when it didn't look like one."

 

"What'd he say?"

 

"He thinks its because when it's stormy, the waves mesh together and it looks like its boiling down there." The mental picture that churned up was unwelcome, and she hurried on, "Only, he didn't say mesh."

 

Angel hesitated. He knew she liked to lead, but right now, he could tell that she was scared. And rightly so - it was dark and unfamiliar to her. "If you don't mind," he said tactfully, "I would like to go first?"

 

He'd posed it as a question, and he was pleased that he had made the offer when he saw the relief expressed on her face. He wondered if she knew how easy it was for him to see her in the darkness.

 

"If you want," she said nonchalantly, only a small tremor in her voice betraying her.

 

She stepped back and let Angel pass her and start down the track. She started forward, and Angel warned, "Its slippery, Buffy. Why don't you wait here, and I'll see what I can find?"

 

"I don't want…"

 

"You don't want to come down here at all," Angel broke in. "But if I fall, it won't kill me." He left the last sentence unspoken, and waited for what seemed like ages before she replied.

 

"Okay," she said softly. "But if you need me…?"

 

"I'll call."

 

Buffy was silent, listening to his descent down the side of the cliff. If he fell, he might not die, but he was going to be seriously hurt. Maybe washed out to sea. And if she couldn't get to him before sunrise…

 

She shook those thoughts away. She would just have to wait.

 

Angel descended faster than if he had Buffy with him, and he didn't have to worry about her safety. He smiled to himself in the darkness. She would be mortified if she'd known what he was thinking, and quite likely to accompany him just to prove that he was wrong.

 

Halfway down the narrow ledge he found a couple of small caves. He squirmed into the first and looked around. It was empty, but even over the crash of the waves outside, he could hear the steady drip of water from somewhere up above. He searched the cave thoroughly, but it was empty.

 

The second cave was smaller, and he had to stoop to go inside. This one had small puddles of water all around, and was also empty. Except…

 

There was a fragment of something lying against one of the rocky protrusions. He went closer and picked it up. It was fragile, felt smooth, and had a gentle curve to it. Was it a crystal of some kind?

 

Carefully, he stored the strange object inside his jacket and went back outside. He made the journey back up the cliff face in mere minutes, and Buffy met him at the top, offering him her hand to help pull him over the ridge.

 

"Did you find anything?" she asked when he was standing safely beside her.

 

"I found something - a piece of jewellery, perhaps. I want to get it back so that Giles can have a look at it."

 

Giles took one look at the smooth artefact that Angel had placed on the table and hurried over to the laptop. He typed in some keywords, while a bemused Buffy marvelled at how at home he had become with the technology.

 

"Damn!" Buffy and Angel looked at each other. Was that good or bad? "I'm so stupid!"

 

Bad then. "The preferred term is mentally challenged, Giles," she offered.

 

Giles ignored her, and Angel asked, "What have you found?"

 

"The artefact you found is a shell, Angel."

 

Angel frowned. It was like no shell he had ever seen. "Demon?"

 

"Yes. Kran Demon."

 

"Never heard of it." Buffy said, glancing at Angel, who shook his head.

 

"I'm not surprised," Giles said. "They're thought to be extinct. The last one was thought to have been seen more than two hundred years ago."

 

Angel looked back at the remains of the egg on the table. "But that's recent."

 

"Yes." He rolled his eyes. "I'm so…" he glanced at Buffy, "mentally challenged.

 

'I thought of a Kran, but they're not around anymore. But, supposing that it was just… hibernating? Or maybe it takes a century or two to grow to maturity?" He crossed to the table and picked up the egg shell for closer examination. When nothing further was said, Buffy prompted, "And a Kran Demon is…?"

 

"When a Kran grows to adulthood, it’s a big beast. But most importantly…"

 

He turned the laptop round so that they could see the picture displayed on the screen. Growing out of the head of the huge creature was a structure like an elephant's trunk, and at the end of that, something shone.

 

"A light," Buffy breathed.

 

"Yes. I thought the light was hearsay, but…"

 

"It's like an Angler fish." Angel offered.

 

"Exactly."

 

"So," Buffy said. "Where is this Angler Demon now?"

 

Giles sat down at his laptop and pulled up his maps of the whole area from the Lizard, up to Cadgwith, and scouring further north up to Coverick. He checked all the local maps, including geological ones, and he crossed-referenced them with all the information he could locate on Kran Demons.

 

Not wanting to interfere with Giles' research, and knowing it was likely to take a while, Buffy went upstairs to have a bath, leaving Angel to sit quietly with Giles and make endless cups of tea.

 

When she returned, feeling much better, Giles and Angel were bent over the laptop, heads bobbing in unison. The sight made her smile. "Find anything?"

 

"We believe so," Giles replied. "There is an area here where there are a lot of small inhospitable islands that nobody visits - especially now, in November. We know the Kran are swimmers - and it's my guess that it is living there, on one of the islands."

 

Buffy scowled. "You want us to swim out there… in this weather? We… I'll catch my death!"

 

"Good lord, no." Giles looked shocked by the idea. "Mac has offered his services as a taxi, if we should need to get anywhere inaccessible by road."

 

"Are we going tonight?" Buffy asked.

 

"I'm just going to call him, and see if he can get down here tonight."

 

 

**

 

Mac pulled the boat up the beach, and Giles moved forward to help him bring it closer into the bay. Buffy finished doing up her jacket and shivered. It was damned cold here. She liked England, but for a California girl, she found the British winter bitter.

 

"What next?" Mac asked, picking up the lantern from the beach.

 

"One of us will stay here to wait for the others. No need for us all to go," Angel told him.

 

Mac nodded, and stepped up the beach toward Buffy. "It's best if you keep the lantern beside you, miss. Stay back from the waters edge and keep an eye on the tide."

 

Buffy grinned. "That's sweet - but I'm not staying here."

 

Mac frowned. "If you're not… then who…?"

 

Giles cleared his throat. "That would be me, actually." Embarrassed, he took the lantern from Mac and tried not to notice the scorn in his expression. "Buffy can look after herself, you know."

 

Buffy gave him a chirpy smile as she went by, and she and Angel climbed into the boat behind the troubled Mac. He was clearly unhappy about taking a girl on what he had been told might be a dangerous trip.

 

Mac watched the strange pair in his boat furtively as he steered his boat closer to the islands that Giles said might house the 'thing' that caused the wrecks. He felt sure there was more to the little blonde than there appeared to be. Giles was not a coward, and he felt she could handle… whatever… better than he could. The male was… unnerving. He couldn't put his finger on why, Angel had been nothing other than polite to him, but there was just something about his manner that made him nervous.

 

The Islands were all very small, and it didn't take them very long to check each one. The first two revealed nothing, but at the third, Angel bent down to the sand. "I think something has been here recently," he told the girl. She turned back to Mac.

 

"There might be something here," she told him. "You'd better take yourself back out to sea - it'll be safer. If anything odd happens, don't come back for us - go to Giles. He'll know what to do."

 

"I can't…"

 

"We'll be fine," Buffy assured him.

 

Mac shrugged, and reluctantly took the boat back into the smooth waters. He wasn't happy, but he'd called in Giles' team, and he had to trust that Giles knew what he was doing. But he didn't like the idea of leaving the girl somewhere she could get hurt.

 

Angel was crouched over the beach, studying the tracks left by the creature.

 

"Demon?" Buffy asked.

 

"Yeah." He stood up. "And not too long ago."

 

The tracks led inland, and disappeared among the rocky ground. But it didn't matter - the demon's scent was everywhere.

 

"Angel." Buffys voice was barely a whisper, but Angel turned to see what Buffy was looking at. A small crack between two large boulders appeared to lead downwards, under the ground. They'd found a cave.

 

Buffy was closest, and peered into the cave. Something was moving inside, and she decided that if she was going to fight it - she wasn't going to do it down there. She unsheathed her sword, and Angel did the same.

 

"Hey!" she said loudly. "Avon calling!"

 

Angel gave her a curious glance, and she raised her eyebrows. "You have heard of Avon, right? Everyone knows Avon!"

 

Deadpan, Angel replied, "Of course. Where do you think I buy from?"

 

Buffy giggled, and then her attention was brought back to the present by something… floppy…  wriggling out of the hole in the ground.

 

"Euw," Buffy muttered. "Maybe Avon should call, after all…"

 

Angel made a sound that could have been a snort, but his reply was cut off by disgusting sounds the floppy thing made as it wobbled upright.

 

"It… doesn't look much like Giles' picture." Buffy observed.

 

"I think the picture was an artist's impression," Angel guessed. "And not very accurate…" he added, as the glutinous creature ambled forward.

 

The Kran seemed to shimmer, and the body rippled in the moonlight. When it held still, it could pass as a rock on the beach, but it was surprisingly fast when it wanted to, and it squelched on top of Angel faster than he could get out of the way.

 

Appalled, Buffy saw part of Angel's arm and shoulder disappear into the Kran, and she ran forward, swinging her sword at the demon. At the last minute, she pulled her downwards stroke, suddenly afraid that if the Kran wasn't solid, she would hack off Angel's arm.

 

Instinctively, Angel pushed against the creature but his other hand began to sink inside it as well.

 

The Kran had not reacted to her sword, and was, as she had half expected, spongy. It appeared to not even be aware of Angel, who was growing more worried by the moment. The slightest touch to the thing glued him to it, and his sword arm, complete with sword, was buried inside it. He tried not to think about whether the Kran was in the process of digesting him.

 

Buffy's sword had stuck inside the creature, and, careful not to touch the creature, she grabbed the sword with both hands to pull it out. It wouldn't budge. Come on, she scolded herself, even Arthur didn't have to do this twice…

 

The sword came free, and she pulled back. The Kran followed her, moving round her like some grotesque wobbling jellyfish, and she risked a quick glance at her partner.

 

"You okay?"

 

"I've been better," He growled, feeling faintly ridiculous.

 

"Any suggestions?"

 

Angel had been about to make a quip, but he was distracted by something… happening… inside the Kran. Oh, damn…

 

"It's getting warm inside," he informed her, his voice tight, and she was reminded that Giles' picture showed a light shining out of the creature's head. Only… it didn't have a head. What if… it turned itself into a fireball?

 

"Here, kitty," she called, walking backwards. "Come with Buffy. You know you want to…."

 

The Kran followed her, dragging Angel with it, and he stumbled over the rocks trying not to get any closer to it. But by now, half of his right side was buried in the mess, and his left arm up to the elbow. He was struggling to keep his head - and especially his eyes - out of the gelatinous gunge, but it was getting harder. Every step he took following the Kran was precarious. He couldn't see where he was going, and he tried to feel with his feet but it was moving too fast to let him be cautious. Every stumble buried him deeper. And the inside of the creature was getting extremely hot. 

 

Buffy could see the pain etched on Angel's face, but without being able to touch the Kran, her options were severely limited. The creature wouldn't let her get anywhere near him, and given the trouble she'd had getting the sword out, she doubted she had the strength necessary to pull him out.

 

As fast as she could, she led the Kran back to the water's edge. She had no idea if it would help, but Angel's warning about the heat had reminded her that this thing produced fire, and she wanted to be as close to water as possible if it decided to burst into flames. She could now see something glowing inside the beast, and across the top - where the head ought to be - a slit was opening. That couldn't be good.

 

The Kran stopped before entering the water and refused to budge any further. Attached to the creature, Angel tried to ignore the pain, but it was now so hot inside the thing that he was sure his hands were blistering. When the Kran stopped moving, he looked up. Buffy was splashing seawater at the Kran, but it was too little, and she couldn't get close enough to do it properly. She had nothing that would scoop up water, either. He saw her staring at the top of the Kran as she worked, and he looked up. A gaping slit was appearing, and like Buffy, he remembered the illustration that Giles showed them. He was sure that fire was going to shoot out of the top, the beacon that had lured the boats in, and that meant it was going to be fierce.

 

Not liking his options one little bit, he did the only thing he could do. He pushed forward, overbalancing the Kran with his unexpected action, and he threw himself and the creature into the water. He shut his eyes and rolled, feeling the thing surround and suffocate him, and he felt himself being sucked in.

 

Appalled, Buffy saw Angel's desperate roll, and saw them both vanish under the rolling waves. At first, she could follow them via the glow of the Kran's fire, and then… nothing.

 

"Angel?" she yelled. "Angel!"

 

Then, as a cloud slid from over the moon she saw something glistening. Was it dead? She yanked off her jacket, wrapping it loosely over her arm and pushed at the creature - ready to abandon her garment if it tried to pull her in. But it didn't. It just lay there, and she pushed and kicked at the now semi-solid shape until Angel appeared from under the ghostly shape.

 

He groaned, and she dropped to her knees in the sea beside him. "Are you okay?"

 

He tried to answer, but his mouth was full of… his mind recoiled from that image, and he spat it out into the sea. He could feel Buffy's hands all over him, checking that he was still whole after the Kran had swallowed him.

 

"You could wait until we got back to the cottage," he said mildly, and then his arms were full of slayer as she hugged him fiercely.

 

"Ssh," he soothed her, neither paying any attention to the slime on his clothes. "I'm all right."

 

"I thought…" she regained control of herself and glared. "If I hadn't been here to save your sorry ass, you'd be toast now."

 

"I know."

 

Buffy pulled back, glancing at the Kran to make sure it was dead. "Well…" she grinned. "Just make sure you stick close by, okay?"

 

*

 

The following day Giles and Buffy checked out the island to make sure there were no more eggs, and to bury the body that had washed back up on the beach.

 

"How's Angel today?" Giles asked her as they climbed out of the boat.

 

"His hands are still sore, but they'll be okay in a day or two." She grinned. "He's pissed about his ruined coat though. And it took us about an hour to get the stuff out of his hair."

 

Giles laughed as he remembered the vampire's annoyance the previous night. He gave one of the two spades he carried to Buffy, stuck his in the soil and began to dig.

 

"I thought you said it was a good swimmer?" Buffy mused as they worked. "How come water killed it?"

 

"Perhaps they don't swim at all," he speculated. "Which might explain why they have to lure food in to them. Or because it was just about to release the fire, the body was open - and allowed water inside it."

 

"How did it get here?"

 

"Presumably this one was also created by the witch that Mac spoke of, or perhaps her spell sent it here. I'm not really sure."

 

"Well, whatever the reason - I've had enough of this place. Let's go home, shall we?"

 

Giles picked up the shovel and followed her back to the shore. Mac helped Buffy into the boat, even though after last night's escapade he was fairly certain she didn't need it.

 

As the boat rounded the headland and disappeared from site, the ground over the Kran began to move. A creature, like a tiny clear crab scuttled out from under the soil and disappeared into a safe crack in the nearby rocks.

 

End.

 

Some relevant, and interesting, links:

 

http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/The-Lizard/

 

http://www.cadgwith.com/index.htm

 

http://www.cornish-links.co.uk/history-smugglers.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 



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