Author: Dark Star
Summary: All kinds of creatures cherish the night.
"I won't be a minute."
Martha closed the car door quietly and took a furtive peep at the
small cottage. The front of the house was shabby-looking but clean, and bright
plants stood in the terracotta pots outside the front door. She took a deep
breath and then made the seven steps needed to reach the wooden door and
knocked firmly. While she waited, she smiled at her husband in the car, and
glanced down at the plants in the pot, realising that she had no idea what some
of them were. Aniseed? She wasn't sure which of the plants smelt like
aniseed and she would have to ask John later - he would surely know. She
watched a thrush hopping across the path, and she knocked again. From somewhere
inside the cottage, there was a soft clunk.
"Alice?" she called through the door. She tried the
handle, and found it locked. Odd - Alice never locked her door. Was Alice in
trouble? What should she do? Crossing carefully to the bay window, she shaded
her eyes against the light and peered inside, hoping she wouldn't see the old
lady sprawled across the floor. There was no sign of Alice, no sign of any
trouble, and the room looked untouched. She wondered if she ought to go round
the back of the cottage, but felt that might be just too nosy. Martha
sighed and returned to the car.
"No sign?" John asked when she was settled back into the
"No." She frowned, pulling the seat belt round her torso
and clicking it in place. "I'm worried about her, John. Nobody has
seen her for weeks."
"Maybe Alice just doesn't want company," John said,
earning himself Martha's glare. Hurriedly, he added, "Are you going to
call the police?"
"And say what? That she hasn't been seen?"
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," Martha replied as John started the
engine. "Can we come over again tomorrow morning before we go to
Great. Martha was going to be edgy all evening, then. Wisely, he
replied, "Of course, love."
Martha fretted all the way home. During her shopping trip that
afternoon, she had run into Clarice Norton in Westbury, and the girl had
mentioned that she hadn't seen Alice for some time. The old lady's cats were
well past their inoculations, and it was odd, because she was usually so prompt.
That got Martha thinking about when she had last seen Alice and couldn't
remember. Discreet inquiries at the local shops fuelled her concern. Nobody had
The next morning dawned cloudy and wet. Martha got John to take a
detour round to the old lady's home, but although she knocked several times,
there was no answer. She arrived at Summerdown House agitated, and for the next
couple of hours she found she could think of nothing except whether the old
lady was in any trouble. She wasn't sure what to do; she would have liked to
talk to Giles or one of Summerdown's other residents, but Giles and Buffy had
gone down to Cornwall on a suspected Strange Thing sighting, and Angel had gone
up to London to check out a tip from Travis about a spate of vampire attacks,
probably carried out by a single individual. She hoped they would all be back
Giles pulled the newspaper out of his bag. "The report said
that the creature - a cross between an Owl and a man, has been seen in the
Mawnan area. It's not the first time that the creature has been sighted, but
it's gone a bit quiet on that front since the 1970's. "
Buffy took the proffered paper and glanced at the tiny report at
the bottom of the page about a strange creature chasing teenage kids out of the
woods. Giles was hoping to stop whatever was going on, assuming it was genuine,
before it made the front page. "Its sounds like the Mothman," she
Impressed, Giles couldn't help saying, "You've heard of
"Well, you don't have to sound so surprised," she said
defensively. "With the amount of research we did back in Sunnydale, it's
not surprising that I have heard of some of this stuff."
"What do you know?"
"Only that there have been various sightings in the West
Virginia area for the last thirty years or so. Some kind of man-beast, but it
doesn't seem to be hostile, though it looks ghastly."
"I believe the Owlman to be the same, or a related species to
the one seen in West Virginia. This one is usually seen in the vicinity of
Mawnan - sometimes around the church, and sometimes - as now - in the
"Well," Buffy said, flexing her shoulders and stretching
her tired muscles after the long journey down, "I say we get something to
eat before we go hunting owls. You know, a lot of our cases are down here in
Cornwall. Should we move the office down here?"
"Westbury is more central, so will suit us better. But yes…
Cornwall is well known for its paranormal happenings, as is much of the West
"England seems to have its fair share, too," she
chuckled. "Let's go eat, Giles."
Angel watched the night-time population weave its way through the
garishly bright lights cast by the busy shops, restaurants and nightlife. Years
ago, Soho was known as the Red Light District, but that was now largely
eradicated. However, the business undertaken in Soho didn't just disappear, it
simply moved elsewhere. He stood in one of the darkened and closed shops,
enjoying the hum of humanity as it passed him by, going about the daily
rituals. His mind drifted back to earlier that day when Buffy found out where
he was supposed to go.
"London? You're going to London?"
"Yes, but its just…"
"Don't you 'just' me!" Buffy folded her arms across her
chest. "I spoke to Giles. The area around Kings Cross is a haven for
prostitutes, drug addicts, and crooks!"
Angel shrugged. "So?"
"How come you get to do the slaying? I should do that!"
"You could," he replied soothingly. "But you are
already packing to go down to Cornwall shortly. I didn't have anything else to
do." He took in her furious look, and added placatingly. "I didn't
think it would matter."
"Well it does!" she snapped, whirling away to pick up
her folded sweater and hurl it into the case so hard it bounced.
"I'm sorry," Angel ventured. "I didn't mean to make
"No?" she glared at him. "I'm sure you'll forget
all about that when you get a look at those naked girls!"
"Naked girls?" he said, bewildered. "What naked
"Oh, as if you don't know, Mr Innocent!" A t-shirt
bounced into the suitcase, sprawling on top of the sweater.
Angel hesitated, not sure if she was mad at him because she didn't
trust him, or because he was going without her. "It's not a social
trip," he tried. "It's all business."
"I'll bet!" she scowled, slamming down the lid of the
case hard enough to make the bed shake.
Angel sighed. The last thing he wanted was to argue with a
pre-menstrual slayer, but her lack of trust in him hurt. "I'm just going
to do my job, Buffy. I don't know why you're getting yourself all worked
up." He knew he'd said the wrong thing when she pursed her lips, grabbed
the case off of the bed and stormed out.
Now, looking at the very young ladies parading themselves along
the street in very little attire, he had a better understanding of why she was
upset. But still… didn't she understand that he loved her?
In front of him, a pretty girl with a mass of dark curls stopped
in front the shop doorway, in the privacy of the darkness. She began adjusting
her top to show her cleavage to the best advantage, and she hitched up her
skirt to fiddle with the suspenders at the top of her stocking. Satisfied, she
smoothed out the wrinkles in her very tight red skirt before wobbling away on
her very high red shoes, completely unaware she had been watched by the vampire
in the doorway.
He settled back further into the shadows; Oh boy. He
suspected he was going to have a very long night.
"So… did Jane mind?" Buffy asked, as they trekked up the
slope to travel further into the woods.
Giles blinked. "Why should she?"
"Well, you know… it's quite romantic, waiting at home for her
"I'm not her man!" he shot back before he could stop
himself. "She's a friend, Buffy. One that I haven't seen for a
"Why haven't we met her?"
He sighed. "I'm just meeting her for a drink, that's all.
Just a drink."
"Right," Buffy smirked. "Just a drink."
Secretly, she was pleased that he was going out. Jane worked in one of the
shops down in Westbury, and she had overheard Giles calling her to explain that
he wouldn't be able to make their rendezvous because he had a job to work on.
She wondered if he would ever actually have that drink with her.
Something glittered in the gathering dusk, and she went to
Joining his slayer at the edge of a small bank, he found her
looking down at the bloody grass, a strange creature lying motionless at her
feet. It looked rather like a big grey bat. The head and body were one piece; a
grey-orange beak in what would have been the head was partly open. The eyes
were closed, but Giles suspected that if they were open, the eyes would have
been remarkably like an Owl's. The whole body was covered in feathers, except
for the membrane underneath the wings that attached the wings to the body, and
this membrane stretched right across the chest. The feet, clenched tightly in
death, were claws, much like a bird might have.
"Is this our Owlman?" Buffy asked as Giles knelt down
beside the feathered body. "What killed it?"
"Probably this," he said indicating the sharp rock under
what was presumably the head. He looked up from the blood-splattered rock into
the overhead trees, and could see nothing. Beside the creature's body, Buffy
noticed a large broken branch.
"Could he have fallen?"
Giles took the heavy branch. One end was ragged, as though it was
snapped off, and looked very recent. "Yes, I think that might have been
the case. He hit his head on that rock…"
"But why? I gather these things have been around for a while
- and if it was so clumsy it fell off of things, surely it would have been
found before now?"
"True." He considered. "Perhaps he was in a
"Running from - or after - those kids?"
Continuing the route uphill, they found an area that looked like
it had been trampled, and was probably where the kids had been chased away.
Giles started forward. "Perhaps…"
Whatever he was about to say was drowned out by a ghastly screech,
and something swooping down from the trees. He went down under a mass of
grey feathers, glad he had chosen to wear a warm sweater against the evening
chill, because it was taking the worst of the raking talons. He couldn't
breathe - the creature was so hot and his world was suddenly full of
motion as he fought desperately to keep it at bay. Then it was gone, yanked
away by a furious slayer, apparently by her bare hands. In fact, she still had
a handful of feathers clasped tightly in one fist as she battled with the
Giles scrambled to pick himself up off of the ground, fighting his
instinct to help her, knowing that he would probably just get in the way. She
was born for this. He stepped back, to give her some room, and the Owlman
turned glowing red eyes in his direction. Motion? Had it been attracted to
movement, or something else? An idea was forming, and, trusting that his slayer
could look after herself, he set off in the direction that he had been heading
before the Owlman had attacked.
That had been exactly the same spot that the other Owlman had
chased the kids. Coincidence? Or was it guarding something? Behind him, he
heard Buffy shout, '"hey!" or something similar, and he could hear
the creature coming after him.
He hurried through the undergrowth knowing he didn't have much
time, and then… he stopped dead.
Giles spun as the Owlman came crashing after him, and Buffy hot on
his talons. The Owlman growled at him, and Buffy swung round, putting herself
again between the creature and Giles. She started forward, arm raised…
"Buffy, wait!" the arm remained in midair, something in
the tone of Giles' voice making her pause. The creature, clearly restless, was
staring past her, and she kept the creature in her peripheral vision, and
turned her head slightly to see what was happening.
Giles was gently pulling the undergrowth away from a small area of
compacted grass, looking like it was shaped into a well. But it was what was
inside the well that made her gasp. Bloody shapes lay inside the well, less
developed but definitely miniature versions of the Owlman.
"What happened?" she breathed, her arm dropping down to
"A fox?" Giles guessed. "Poachers,
maybe?" He squirmed forward, earning a growl from the Owlman, and
peered closer. "Some of them are still alive," he said.
Gently, he picked up one of the limp creatures, ignoring the
warning growl, knowing Buffy would keep him at bay. The baby's skin was cold in
his hands, and he remembered the heat of the Owlman's body. The babies had not
yet grown their feathers, and he knew that they were dying. He cupped the
young creature in his hands, blowing gently on the body to warm it, his mind
racing. Could he do anything to help them? He knew nothing of the physiology of
these young creatures, but the thought of not trying to help never entered his
head. Placing the baby down quickly, he stripped off his sweater and popped the
baby inside the sleeve, wrapping the fabric round it as best he could. He
reached for the second baby.
Owlman started forward, uncertain what the strange thing was doing
to his young, and Buffy barred his way. "You're not going anywhere,
Ducky." She told him, and the Owlman whimpered.
"Don't you hoot at me," she warned.
"I think," Giles muttered, looking up from his
swaddling, "that it was more of a whine than a hoot."
Buffy sighed. "Yes, but it's funnier if it’s a hoot.
Work with me here, okay?"
"In fact," Giles added, tucking another small body into
a fold in his sweater, "it's interesting that barn owls don't hoot,
either. They screech."
Buffy raised an eyebrow. "You're telling me this is a barn
Giles smiled to himself, wondering if she could find humour in any
situation. Six of the young creatures were still alive, although one was so
limp he doubted that it would survive. He stood up, his agile mind weighing up
his options. Both Buffy and the Owlman were watching him curiously, and he
indicated she should let him pass. The creature scrambled to his babies and
crouched down. Giles was afraid he would unravel the fabric but he made no
attempt to do so, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He noticed Buffy relax too
- she must have been tensed and ready to stop it, if he had tried.
What to do now? He remembered the body of the other Owlman, or
maybe it was an Owlwoman, and that it had a band of skin running around the
chest area. This Owl-creature didn't have it. "Take off your
sweater," he suddenly said to Buffy.
"Excuse me?" she squeaked, feeling her face turn a
becoming shade of pink. What was happening now? Had Giles been possessed, or
Giles suddenly realised what he had said. "I do beg
your pardon," he spluttered, awkwardly indicating the crouching Owlman.
"I think that they keep their young warm by holding them against the body,
and I was just thinking that wool would be a better… insulator than… I'm so
sorry; I didn't mean…" embarrassed, Giles began to unbutton his shirt in
order to use that instead.
Buffy tried to hide a smile. He looked so … cute, when he was
fumbling like that. In an older, Giles' way, of course… "It's okay,"
she grinned, stripping off her sweater, thankful that she put a t-shirt
underneath it this morning. As she handed it over, she couldn't resist another
dig, "If you wanted a flash, you only had to say."
"I didn't…" he began, before realising she was teasing
him. "Well," he added, knotting the wool into a makeshift carrier.
"Just don't tell Angel…"
Buffy giggled, and the Owlman jumped. Right. Inappropriate humour
When the Owlman stood up, Giles indicated the sweater, and
curious, the creature let him place the bag over his neck so that it hung down
in front of his chest. He growled when Giles gently picked up his own sweater,
complete with babies, and slipped them into the cosy carrier round the Owlman's
Owlman looked bemused, and then… he wrapped his arms round the
babies and hugged them close. He looked up at the strange pair of creatures in
front of him, and said, "Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss."
"You're welcome," Buffy and Giles replied in unison.
Then the Owlman turned and scampered off into the woods again, his babies
supported by a feathery arm. Or was that a wing?
"Do you think they'll survive?" Buffy asked.
"I don't know," Giles replied, suddenly realising he was
really very tired. "But we have given them a chance."
Buffy shivered. "You know, we should really get back… it's a
bit chilly down here."
"Quite so," he agreed.
"What about the other Owl body, should we bury it?"
Giles considered. "Covering it will probably suffice. It's
fairly quiet up here, and I doubt that it gets much passing traffic."
It was a sad business manoeuvring the deceased Owl creature into
the darker undergrowth and covering the body with leaves and branches now that
they knew 'she' had only been protecting her young. Maybe it wasn't so
different after all.
"Should we… you know, say something?" Buffy asked,
looking down at the little pile of leaves.
"It hardly seems appropriate to say a prayer," Giles
"I know, but still…" in her thoughts, Buffy was
remembering the dead cat that had ended up in her basement, and her mother's
insistence when they buried it in the yard that they had to say something. Goodbye,
strange Owlwoman, I hope you find your way.
"Well…" with Buffy looking at him expectantly, he
searched his memory for something that would be adequate. Then, he began to
" I saw my world again through your eyes
As I would see it again through your children's eyes.
Through your eyes it was foreign.
Plain hedge hawthorns were peculiar aliens,
A mystery of peculiar lore and doings."
Giles turned and walked away then, and Buffy fell into step beside
"Tennyson?" she guessed.
"I don't know that one."
"No? Well, he was an English Poet - only died about ten years
"Learn something every day," she murmured. "So,
we're done here then? We can go home?"
"We can go home," Giles confirmed.
"Good." Her expression turned sombre. "I was a bit…
unfair to Angel before we left. I need to make it up with him."
"I'm sure he isn't going to bear a grudge."
"He'd better not," she grinned, earning herself a
sideways glance from Giles. "And," she said in an attempt to change
the subject, "You've got a date to get ready for."
"It's not a date," Giles said patiently. "I'm just
meeting a friend for an evening out, that's all."
"Yep." Buffy beamed. "Like I said… a date."
Two feet from the darkened doorway, a boy begged for the drugs he
craved, even though he hadn't enough money to pay for them. Angel watched in
distaste, as the youngster, probably no more than fifteen, offered the dealer
everything he had to procure the sale, even himself, before being turned firmly
away. Hands shaking, the boy pulled his hooded jacket tighter over his
malnourished frame and crossed over the street and disappeared around the
corner of the street. A drunken male shouting lewd comments at the barely dressed
girls, staggered into the same alley and vomited.
Girls paraded themselves in their tiny clothing and provocative
poses, waiting for the latest customer to come and buy what they had to offer.
Clasping the arm of one of these eager punters, they sashayed into cheap
hotels, or climbed into waiting cars; many pulled their companion into the
nearest darkened alley, to reappear mere moments later, the client already on
his way somewhere else.
Angel missed nothing; he saw the drunks and druggies, the pimps
and prostitutes. He saw raincoated men sidle into seedy clubs, with bold claims
of topless dancers or free shows emblazoned across their
establishments. He watched the couples just out for a fun evening,
the occasional tourist who had ended up in the wrong part of London, and the
inevitable homeless huddled in their makeshift boxes or bedded down in
doorways. One had tried to commandeer the space that Angel occupied, but the
instinct that all relied on down here, sent him hurrying for somewhere safer.
While he watched, he brooded. Buffy had been annoyed that he had agreed to come
here. He understood that she was unhappy about his proximity to the area's
working girls, but he had no intention of getting to know any of them. Why
didn't she trust him?
Then he saw her. She had a grace that the other girls didn't have;
an ease of movement that seemed to flow. She looked confident and pretty in a
simple black dress that clung to every curve. He moved forward, silent and
fast, and reached her as she stopped on the street corner. Her dark eyes
appraised him; no words spoken, she gave an imperceptible tilt of her head to
the nearest alley, and he let his mouth quirk into a small smile. She went
first, waiting for him.
"Been a while, has it?" she asked, the husky tone of her
voice affecting him more than was comfortable.
"What makes you say that?"
"We don't normally pay for what we want, do we?"
"Who said I'm going to pay for it this time?"
Her stance changed. "No freebies, even for you." For a
moment, Angel froze, wondering if she recognised him, but he didn't think so
when she continued, "I've seen that look before, you know. "
"Yeah." Then she was in front of him, against him, and
her lithe body arousing more than the usual manly response, and he watched as
she let her true face emerge. "I've shown you mine…?"
The muscles in his face twitched, but he forced himself to keep
his human face. "No. That's not how it's going to go."
Unperturbed, she scraped her fangs along her wrist and offered it
to him. "How what's going to go?" Her voice was low, and full
of silk. The blood on her wrist was calling to him, and his own bloodlust
stirred. It had been so long… The wrist was almost to his lips when he entwined
his fingers with hers, and the temperature of her skin, so different from
Buffy's, snapped him back to the present. With the memory of his woman's
smiling face in his mind, he turned the wrist, twisting it up behind the
"This," he snapped, pulling the stake out of his pocket
and jamming it into her heart. Her surprised gasp was lost in the crumbling
dust, and he brushed down his jacket. He understood now; Buffy had been right
to be concerned about sending him on this mission, and he resolved to make it
up to her when he got back.
But the smell of blood still hung heavy in the air.
Before leaving for Westbury, Giles called Summerdown House to see
if there had been any more cases come in during his absence. There had been
only one enquiry about how much an exorcism would cost, and Martha took
the opportunity to mention her unease about Alice. Giles liked Alice. She had
been his primary school teacher at the tiny local Victorian school, and she
must have worked at the school for at least thirty years when she had been
forced to retire. He had never known her to be anything less than charitable to
everyone, and as a boy, had sometimes sneaked to her little cottage to listen
to her wonderful tales of the places that she had been. She had taught English,
but he discovered that she could also speak French, German, Italian, Spanish,
and Greek. She had loved languages, and he suspected that it was partly down to
her, that he had developed an early interest in learning to speak other
tongues. In fact, he could speak halting French long before they had ever had
lessons in it at school, and that was down to her enthusiasm and patient
"Would you like me to drop by?" he asked his worried
"Would you mind?" Martha replied, a little too eagerly.
"I know it's not…. a case… but I would feel better if you could take a
"Of course I don't mind," Giles assured her. "I'm
sure it's nothing to worry about, but I'll stop by her cottage when I get
"Thank you," Martha said, relieved. "I'd feel
better if you would."
After the long journey home, Giles had a quick freshen up and
changed his shirt before keeping his promise to Martha. He left Buffy behind at
the flat, to wait for Angel's return sometime after dark.
Alice's front garden looked neat and tidy, the potted plants
healthy and well cared for. Somebody must have been looking after them. He
knocked on the door and waited. There were no sounds of movement from inside
the house, and he knocked again, not really expecting an answer. He tried to
open the door next, and found as Martha had, that the door was locked.
Giles took a couple of steps back and looked up at the bedroom
windows. The curtains were open, the windows clean. Walking round the side of
the house, he unhitched the latch on the small wooden gate and went into the
back yard of the house. There was nobody in the garden, and he went to the
window and peered inside. On the floor of the kitchen, a pair of black and
white cats hunched over two bowls of food, and as Giles watched, a couple of
drops of water ran down the window pane. In the sink below the window, some
cups and bowls waited to be washed, and he knew somebody was in the house.
He knocked on the back door, smiling ruefully as both cats
abandoned their bowls and hid in the space underneath the dresser. Nobody
answered, but he was fairly certain that he had heard movement from behind the
"Alice?" he called, "It's me - Rupert Giles.
Are you all right?"
Nobody answered, but he had the distinct feeling that somebody was
hiding behind the door.
"Alice?" he tried again. "I know you're there. Talk
to me. Is something wrong?"
Silence. And then, very tentatively, Alice said, "Nothing is
wrong, Rupert. Thank you for coming."
Something was wrong - he couldn't put his finger on it, but
he knew that she was hiding something. "Open the door, Alice."
"I… I can't, Rupert. I've been… had the flu. I wouldn't want
to give it to you."
He frowned. Her voice sounded… odd, somehow. "Open the door,
"I'd… rather not."
All right. Time for the big guns. "If you don't open the door
right now, I'm going straight down and enlist the help of Ivy Grittleton.
If you think she'll go away without seeing you, you're very much
From inside the cottage, he could hear rustling sounds. A drawer
being opened. What was she doing? Looking for some kind of weapon? He heard the
bolt on the door being pulled back, and the door opened just a crack, and he
peered inside. Although the temperature wasn't particularly cold, Alice
appeared to wrapped up very warmly, even to the point of wearing gloves and a
hat. A scarf was pulled up high round her neck.
"Are you cold?" he asked.
"Haven't been well," she said, a bit testily. "Now
you've seen I'm fine, you can leave me alone."
Giles frowned again. He had never heard Alice be sharp with
anyone. Still, he had seen her, and he could report back to Martha that all was
well. He was just about to say goodbye, when he noticed that the scarf had
slipped down, and her neck looked very dry, very pink, and… was that scales
on her neck?
Alice saw the look that crossed his face, and, her eyes wide, she
readjusted the scarf round her neck, wafting the scent of aniseed in his
direction. "Go home, Rupert," she snapped, a note of desperation in
Suddenly everything clicked, and Giles said sympathetically,
"You're a Silarri."
Alice gaped at him. Then she sighed, moved back and opened the
door. "You'd better come in, Rupert."
While Giles sat himself down at the kitchen table, Alice made some
tea. With Giles's insistence, but with some reluctance, she took off the hat,
scarf, and gloves. Her hands were also covered with the same pinky scales that
covered her neck, and some were even showing through her hair, and a little
self-consciously, she sat down and told him her story. He'd known that she had
travelled a great deal, but until now, he had never understood why.
Originally from North Africa, she had worked her way up through
Europe. She had never married, never had children. When she lived in Italy, she
had fallen in love with an architect, but after she told him she wasn't human,
he had freaked, told her she was a monster. She fled to France, and finally
England, where she eventually settled in Westbury.
Although Alice looked about eighty, Giles knew that Silarri lived
a great deal longer than humans. "If you don't mind me asking," he
asked, "How old are you?"
"Two hundred and seven," she said promptly.
"And now, you're having trouble passing?"
"Yes. By our standards, I'm not that old," she said,
"I do have to be careful when I'm with others that I give the impression
of an old lady. That's not too bad, but the ability to maintain my human skin
is getting harder. Eventually, I won't be able to hold it at all... I'm afraid
to let anyone see me like this."
Giles nodded. When that happened, she would have to disappear from
public view completely. "What have you been living on?"
Alice shrugged. "I've been stockpiling food and supplies for
some time, but I'm starting to run a bit low now. And it's been… lonely."
"You're not alone any longer," Giles said firmly.
"I will come by and see you, and I'm sure that Martha will be happy to
take care of your shopping and other …"
"Martha mustn't see me like this!"
"Martha is more adaptable than you give her credit for,"
Giles said gently, rubbing behind the ears of a purring cat that had just
landed on his lap.
Alice watched him in silence, and then she said, "What do you
know about Silarri?"
Giles considered. "Very adaptable species, able to camouflage
themselves as many different demons, or nationalities of humans… I didn't
realise that the power to do so was limited."
"It's not something that's documented," Alice agreed.
"Their language skills are legendary." Giles replied,
and then asked, "How many languages can you really speak?"
Alice hesitated. "I've really no idea. Thirty, perhaps?"
At Giles' look of astonishment, she added apologetically, "And probably
another twenty or so demon languages."
"I wish I'd known that before," Giles said. "It
would have come in very useful on some of our cases. You don't want a job as
translator, do you?"
Alice laughed. "The income would come in handy." Her
expression changed. "I miss… being useful. I miss mixing with people,
"It must be hard to always act as an elderly lady when you
aren't all that old. Do you ever… behave inappropriately?"
Alice looked down, embarrassed. Then she confided, "Sometimes
I go out - always at night so that I can't be seen. I go to bright places, busy
streets; and sometimes… I go into the woods and just run. It feels so
"I imagine that would be a surprise to anybody that you
happened to run into," Giles said, making Alice laugh for the second time.
He suspected that she hadn't had much chance to talk to people of late, never
mind find humour in the meetings.
"I imagine it would," she agreed.
Giles sipped his tea, and the silence stretched on. The cat nudged
his arm, and Giles obliged by stroking the soft fur. Alice had been around a
long time. How had he never realised that she wasn't human? How many others
were here in England? In Westbury? Oh… the things she could enlighten him with!
"So… why don't you tell me some more tales of what happened
before you ended up in Westbury?"
The line from the poem Giles quotes is The Owl by Ted Hughes.
You can find more about the Cornish Owlman here.