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PROJECT PARANORMAL STORY TEMPLATE

The Inner Battle

Project Paranormal

Author: Lee

Season 4

Part 4

 

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Summary: When the emotional struggle becomes too much, will she survive the battle?

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The Inner Battle 

Hume McIldouney was tired. He had been awake since before dawn, the storm that had soaked the tiny hamlet outside of Melrose over the last four days increasing in severity until the claps of thunder shook the walls of his modest home near the foothills of the Eildon Hills. Trapped in the house and unable to work in the fields due to the storms, he grew restless during the day and was unable to sleep at night. The thunder echoed throughout the valley, filling nearly every moment with a continuous rumble. The storm did not show any sign of ceasing so Hume, roused from his bed for the fourth night in a row, sat in a chair by the window overlooking the peaks of the the Eildon Hills. The rolling green hills were usually a source of comfort for Hume, having lived in the small village for all his years and finding comfort in the simple, everyday reality of Melrose, but the unrelenting rain shrouded the hills from his view. The soft glow from the table lamp flickered as the storm continued to pound the small village, and he wondered how long his roof would survive the driving rain. He had helped a neighbor patch his roof earlier in the evening and Hume did not relish the thought of attempting such work on his deeply slanted roof in the downpour. The rain would let up for a few minutes, only to resume even harder than before. Getting up to cross the room in order to pour a draught of whisky—the amber liquid warmed his belly and soothed his frazzled nerves—he noticed two simultaneous events that left him stunned.

A flash of light exploded near the central peaks of the hills, the flash so bright Hume was nearly blinded. Atypical of the lightning that had become a normal event over the past four days, the light was continuous, and almost pulsated with a living energy.

At the same time the violent thunder that had been a hallmark of the storm ceased abruptly and before he could ponder this turn in the weather, a rushing wind unlike anything Hume had ever experienced in his fifty-four years bore down from the hills. The sound was complete and absolute, drowning out everything but the sound of the wind.

Stunned by these occurrences and barely noticing that the storm ended, Hume stood in the middle of the room, as both the light and wind grew in intensity, motionless and unthinking save one thought: Dear lord, please let this be a dream. Impossibly, the light grew ever brighter and the wind pounded against his home, the roar echoing in his head and nearly bringing him to his knees. It wasn’t so much pain as an incredible pressure, a sensation unlike anything he had ever felt.  The pressure swept down from his head, squeezing his body uncomfortably tight but aside from the pressure, there continued to be no pain. Hume gasped as his lungs struggled to draw a breath, when the pressure unexpectedly, steadily began to decrease.

As suddenly as the light appeared it disappeared, and the thrashing wind ceased, leaving the room in utter darkness and silence. His heartbeat pounding in his ears and the force wrapped around his body vanishing completely, Hume straightened and slowly made his way back to his chair, his steps measured and careful, wary of the phenomenon occurring again. He became aware that as his heartbeat slowed, he could hear nothing. No pounding rain against the windows, no howling wind, no roaring thunderclaps echoing throughout the countryside.  After the previous days of storms, and the unexplained phenomena that just occurred, the absolute silence was shocking and, Hume had to admit, terrifying.

As the minutes ticked by and nothing else happened—the weather remained eerily quiet and the only pounding Hume felt was in his head—he began to calm, growing certain that the last few minutes had been a delusion, a fanciful imagining brought on by the lack of sleep over the last few days.  He opened the window, still hesitant, guarded against a resurgence of the strange incident, only to discover that everything was still. Utterly, completely still.

No gentle whisper of the wind rustling through the nearby trees.

No rain drip drip dripping from the eaves of his roof.

No plume of smoke drifting lazily from the neighbor’s chimney.

There was nothing. No sound. No lights. No sign of life anywhere.

Hume McIldouney closed the window and slowly walked to his bedroom, shutting and locking the door behind him, trembling with an unexplained fear.

********

An odd noise woke her, something she couldn’t quite place. It was unfamiliar, a strange sound that pierced her unconsciousness and roused her from the depths of slumber. Rolling over she groped for Angel, her hand finding nothing but cool sheets and an empty space where Angel slept. Opening her eyes reluctantly—who got up this early on a Saturday morning after a late night skirmish with an errant demon?—her fuzzy, sleep-weary mind pieced together the fact that her bedmate was missing with the curious noise and realized that Angel was singing in the shower.

Angel . . . showering. . . singing . . . naked . . .

Equally distracted by the images of a naked Angel and a singing Angel, Buffy rose from the bed and padded barefoot across the room, intent on joining her lover in the shower.  After all, he would probably need help scrubbing those hard to reach places, and she was always there to lend a hand.

As she entered the small bathroom she was struck by the image before her. Seeing her strong, broody, gorgeous boyfriend never failed to stop her in her tracks. Especially when her normally reserved, quiet Angel was singing in the shower, head thrown back under the spray as he washed his hair. The fact that he was singing Barry Manilow did not temper her lust at all. It was a strange sight at any time, Angel was not the singing in the shower type, but the last few weeks had been particularly difficult for him, and he had been distant, sneaking away for hours on end, and detached, although physically there with Buffy and Giles, his thoughts were anywhere but on whatever matter was at hand. 

Since the newly ensouled Angelus returned to his own dimension, Angel had been more reserved than usual, alternatively clinging to Buffy at night or keeping her at a distance. Buffy understood, or at least as much as she could understand, and kept silent, knowing that if Angel wanted to talk about the incident he would do so only on his terms. It pained her to see him in such anguish, although he tried to hide the extent of his distress. She remembered the months in Sunnydale after his return from Hell.  It had been one of the most difficult periods in her life, not only because she was dealing with her own personal pain, she had to watch as Angel drew even further into himself, certain that he did not deserve her love after the hell Angelus put her through. It was no surprise that time in Sunnydale had been on her mind the last few weeks. The behavior exhibited by Angel since Angelus returned to his own dimension, ensouled and suffering from the guilt Angel had dealt with for over a century, was eerily similar to his behavior in Sunnydale. Although Buffy did not hold her Angel responsible nor did Giles, she knew her lover well enough to recognize that he was torn by guilt for what had been done, and would happen to Angelus. She wasn’t fooled, even at the height of his Mr. Cryptic phase Angel could never fully disguise his emotions from her. She gave him his space and let him take the lead, hoping that soon he would come to terms with the latest difficulty in their lives.

The weekend they spent in Kent seemed to have been a turning point. Angel had been more of his old self, still quiet, still broody, but the recent pain had faded from his eyes. She knew he wasn’t completely over it, he never would be, his beautiful soul, the soul she loved so much, would not allow it, but now, with him singing in the shower—and not very well, Buffy thought to herself—everything seemed to be back to normal. Or as normal as their lives ever were. Rather than worrying about what trouble would befall them next, Buffy was determined to enjoy this peace for as long as it lasted.

Emerging from the shower a blissful fifteen minutes later, both Buffy and Angel wore smiles and crawled back into their bed for a few more minutes of rest.

“I love you, Angel,” Buffy whispered before succumbing to sleep.

She never felt his smile against her temple or the gentle kiss he laid on her brow.

******

“Ah, yes, good afternoon Buffy, Angel.”

Giles’ greeting rang out as the two made their way into the kitchen shortly after one in the afternoon. Buffy headed directly to the refrigerator to grab some juice for herself and some blood for Angel. It was an ordinary, everyday action, and with their most recent difficulties, she was never more grateful for such simplicity. Giles was reading the local paper, his eyes never leaving the pages. Usually that meant trouble, a report of a mysterious disappearance or death, but Buffy could not see anything unusual in the headlines as she passed.

“Any trouble, Giles? Please tell me we have at least one week of non-demon trouble. Don’t we deserve that?” Buffy pouted as she poured her juice. She wasn’t asking for much, just a few days of relative peace and quiet with no demons threatening to end the world or overrun a village or sacrifice humans in order to bring on Armageddon.  Meeting Angel’s eyes across the table Buffy could tell he felt the same. A few days of relaxation was the only activity Buffy wanted to enjoy over the next week. Well, maybe not the only activity, she thought, as she held Angel’s gaze for a moment longer.

Giles folded the paper and laid it on the table before finally meeting Buffy’s gaze. “No, no. Everything seems to be in order, no reports of any disturbances of any mysterious origins. Perhaps we will be able to enjoy the next several days in solitude. Of course, that could change at any moment. . . ”

Buffy rolled her eyes as Giles continued his lecture. She had heard a variation of this lecture a thousand times over the years. Stay prepared, blah blah blah, be vigilant, blah blah blah, big nasty demon lurking around every corner. Before she could reflect on how little certain things had changed since she first met Giles back in Sunnydale, Martha bustled into the kitchen, arms laden with bags from the market.

“Oh, hello, you three. Care to help me put away the groceries?”

Martha, recently returned from visiting her daughter, along with her husband, John, was an essential part of Project Paranormal, if not in name then in spirit. Keeping Summerdown House in order and mothering over all three, she also served as an informal source of information, gathered from her weekly visits into town. Town gossip, the whispered secrets amongst neighbors and friends, played a vital role in the activities of Project Paranormal. When it came to the supernatural, people tended to remain as quiet as possible, rumors growing from the soft murmurs between friends until finally, word reached Project Paranormal. With their recent cases, and the help the team received from Nick and Collins, they were becoming more well-known and people were more willing to look beyond the natural world, but the tittle-tattle that Martha provided remained invaluable.

Giles and Angel both began to help Martha, but Buffy remained sitting. Much like digging up corpses, Buffy was a firm believer in men carrying heavy bags of groceries. Of course, the fact that she was snuggled into the chair, nice and comfy like, might have had something to do with her reticence to help. Giles’ glare had Buffy scurrying to grab the nearest bag from Angel before her Watcher could say anything.

As the three continued to help Martha with the groceries, she chatted away with the latest news on her daughter’s pregnancy and the local gossip that she heard from the market. She had nothing of importance to the team, although Buffy was interested in the rumors regarding Mr. Lawley and the recent visitor to his home. He introduced the woman as his niece, but Mrs. Covington was convinced she was his paramour. Martha was undecided, but Buffy was ready to believe, if only to give her something to smile about the next time she saw Mr. Lawley.

“Excuse me, Martha, what did you say?”

Buffy shook her head, lost in her ponderings about Mr. Lawley’s illicit romance with a woman her own age. Giles, having heard something that piqued his interest, was staring intently at Martha, who looked as confused as Buffy.

“Well, Mrs. MacCamish’s nephew is visiting from up near The Eildon Hills and he was telling her about some strange weather they had last week. Tremendous thunderstorms but the strangest part was a strong wind the likes of which he had never experienced before. It was accompanied by a flash of light which Hume swore was not lightning, and when it passed, he said everything was completely still, no sign of life anywhere. Everything appeared normal the next day, although Hume did tell Agnes that a body was found near the hills, a poor soul who had apparently been caught out in the storm.” Martha shook her head, her sadness over the death of a complete stranger apparent.

“Did the gentleman have a better description of the wind?” Giles queried.

Martha shook her head. “All Agnes told me was that Hume said it was a type of wind he had never experienced in all of his years. He supposed it was a result of the hills, although he has lived in Melrose since birth and he couldn’t remember a windstorm like it previously. “She paused for a moment to accept a can from Angel before stepping into the pantry. “From what Agnes said, her nephew was quite bothered by the whole experience, and I don’t blame him,” she said, her voice muffled.

At the look on Giles’ face, Buffy knew that her week of peace and quiet was no longer. She knew that look, the one that meant she could look forward to hours of research and possible demon hunting.

“Oh no, Giles, I’m not doing this,” Buffy protested before Giles could open his mouth and shatter her dream of a demon-free week.

“Do what, Buffy? I have not suggested you do anything. I’m merely interested in such a strange phenomenon, and as interesting as it sounds, I do not think there is any reason to believe it is supernatural in origin,” Giles explained.

Buffy scowled, her mouth twisting into a thin line. “You have that look on your face, the look that says, ‘Oh no, Buffy, don’t expect to have any kind of break because there’s a neat new demon to go kill.’”

For his part, Giles looked chagrined because despite his reassurances, Buffy knew that he was merely attempting to disarm her. His glance at Angel was brief but Buffy caught it. “I knew it,” she muttered, disappointed to see her week of quiet disappear, but inwardly thrilled at the thought of a new hunt.

“We’ll go away for a few days afterwards, Buffy. I promise,” Angel promised as he crossed the room to stand next to Buffy. “And who knows, this probably won’t turn out to be anything but an unusual storm and we may not even have to leave Summerdown.”

“Are we ever that lucky,” she grumbled. She sighed. “Okay, fine, let’s do it. Let’s talk to this Human guy and find out what’s going on. . Wait, did you say he’s from Melrose? Like, Melrose Avenue?” She found it odd but who was she to argue with possibly going back to California for a visit?

Giles, Angel and Martha all laughed, Giles taking off his glasses and cleaning them in his “oh Buffy” way he had when she amused him.  “No, Buffy, we’re not talking about Melrose Avenue,” Angel explained, rubbing her arm gently. For all of her bluster, he knew how sensitive she could be at times when it came to her intelligence. Buffy was no by means dumb, but she sometimes felt insecure around Giles and Angel when it came to non-physical endeavors. He pulled her to his side and whispered in her ear, “But that was my first thought, too.”

Buffy smiled at him and his lame attempt to not make her feel silly. “Like I’ve told you before, you’re sweet but a terrible liar.” She winked, showing him that regardless of her gaffe, she was not embarrassed.

“Melrose is a small town in the Scottish Borders, dear,” Martha stated. “Just south of the town lies Eildon Hill, more commonly known as the Eildon Hills.”

“Yes,” Giles interrupted, “Melrose is home to Melrose Abbey, a 12th century abbey founded by Cistercian monks around 1136. The abbey is well known for its masonry work, particularly its depiction of the Coronation of the Virgin. However, what is of particular interest is not Melrose but rather the Eildon Hills.”

Buffy stared at Giles, waiting for him to elaborate. “And that would be why?”

“Legend has it that King Arthur is buried in the Eildon Hills. Well, there are several fabled resting places for Arthur, the most famous ones possibly being the Eildon Hills and Alderley Edge, a small village in Cheshire.” Giles paused for a moment, his countenance troubled. “Obviously, no one knows the truth, but there are many stories of those who have tried to unearth his tomb and found nothing. There is a legend around the Eildon Hills involving the search for this resting place, but I can’t quite recall the details.”

“Which means research time, right?” Buffy groaned, resting her head against Angel’s shoulder. “Why can’t we just, oh, I don’t know, not get involved? The guy didn’t say anything about a tomb, did he? The only odd thing is the wind. “

“And the poor deceased soul, Buffy,” Martha reminded her softly. “Agnes did not say anything about Hume’s suspicions, merely his unease about the oddity of the weather. “

In his attempt to gather his thoughts, Giles removed his glasses and cleaned them yet again before speaking. “While I do not recall the significant details of the Eildon Hills legend, the unusual windstorm combined with the mysterious death certainly does arouse my curiosity. I’ll retire to the study to research any possible connection to the Arthurian legend. Buffy, perhaps you and Angel would like to speak with Mr. McIldouney regarding the storm?”

Buffy shrugged, and Angel nodded. Glancing outside, Angel confirmed that sunset still hours away, thus making it only possible for him to accompany Buffy to the home of Agnes MacCamish to speak with her nephew when the sun set.

“Giles, we still have a few hours until sunset so I’ll call Mrs. MacCamish and see if we can arrange a meeting with her nephew after shortly after sundown,” Angel said.

“Alright, shall we meet back for dinner around eight to report our findings?”

The trio broke up, leaving Martha to plan the evening meal for she knew how hungry they all were after investigation into a possible case

******

After ringing Mrs. MacCamish and arranging to meet with her nephew—Buffy used the story that she and Angel were thinking of traveling near Melrose and wanted to discuss with Hume possible lodging and attractions to visit—Buffy joined Angel in their apartment.

“So, do you think this is an actual case,” she asked as she sat on the bed next to Angel, wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her chin on his shoulder.

Angel gave a noncommittal shrug. “I don’t know, to be honest. It certainly sounds very interesting, and I have to admit, it would be nice to investigate a case that doesn’t involve demons or one of our potential deaths.”  He glanced at Buffy, his face inches from her own. It wouldn’t be anything to lean over and kiss her. . .

Long minutes later they sat up on the bed, Buffy’s hair tangled and Angel’s shirt unbuttoned halfway. A gentle peace settled around them, an unfamiliar sensation considering the last weeks. Reflecting for a moment just how much she had missed this feeling since the appearance of Angelus, Buffy moved even closer to Angel, needing his strength and love. She didn’t realize how much she missed him until emotionally, he wasn’t there. He had been present physically, he still touched her, still made love to her, but emotionally, he had been as distant as ever. Only when they were in Kent, and whatever issues he was dealing with had been resolved, did Buffy finally believe that her Angel was back with her.

“Okay, lazy bones, I need to change—“

“And wash your neck. I might have left a few lipstick marks there,” Buffy interrupted.

“I need to change and clean up, and you should brush your hair, unless you want to meet Mr. McIldouney looking like a woman who has been well- and thoroughly kissed.” Angel grinned with obvious masculine pride at the sight of his lover looking like she had been well loved.

Buffy smirked, the sarcastic grin on her face a familiar sight. “Can’t have that, can we? Oooh, what if Hume is a dashing, attractive man and I just fall helplessly in love with him when we meet?”

“Are you sure he’ll be old enough for you,” Angel asked as he rose from the bed and pulled Buffy up beside him. “I thought you liked your men with a century or two behind them.”

She appeared to think for a moment, tapping her chin with a finger, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “Well, it is true I like my men to have experienced a bicentennial. Makes the sex hotter.”

“What language,” Angel gasped, mock displeasure coloring his features.

Buffy rose up to her tiptoes and smacked a loud, wet kiss on his check. “You know you love it.”

Angel smiled into her eyes, his hands reaching up to softly brush the hair out of her eyes before moving them to gently, so gently, stroke her collarbone. “I do, Buffy, I do,” he replied, his voice quiet, hushed, his eyes telling her all she needed to know, all she would ever need to know.

She was still for a moment, placing her hand on his chest where his heart did not beat but was so full of love that at times, she would swear it was pounding with life. “I love you, Angel,” she whispered before leaning forward to lay a kiss over the heart she loved so much.

*****

“You have a lovely home,” Buffy said as Mrs. MacCamish led her and Angel into the library where Hume was waiting. “It’s so. . .“ She glanced around at the fussy antiques, dusty wall coverings and crooked pictures hanging on every available wall. “Homey.” She shrugged and stuck out her tongue at Angel when he rolled his eyes at her “compliment.”

“How old is the dwelling?” Angel inquired as Mrs. MacCamish led them through a Byzantine layout of rooms and hallways. Buffy hoped Angel was paying attention to their route because she was completely lost.

Mrs. MacCamish paused for a moment, as if trying to sift through years and years of memories, which Angel supposed she was. “My great-grandfather built it in 1870 and many of the furnishings you see,” she pointed to a well-worn bureau that Angel guessed was at least 100 years old, “are original to the house. It was quite a lovely home when I was a child, but I’m afraid that I am unable to maintain it as the polished jewel it once was.”

Continuing her explanation of her family home, Mrs. MacCamish finally stopped in front of a heavy door. “Hume is right in there. Poor boy, he has been so different since the storm. He had always been. . . nervous as a young man, but over the years he seemed to become more settled. The storm, and the events that transpired, has brought him back to much how he had been previously, but I guess a young couple such as yourselves don’t care about that. Planning a trip to Melrose, are you? It’s a lovely town, and Hume has lived there all his life. His mother, my sister Frances, God bless her soul, moved th—“

“Yeah, we are,” Buffy fibbed, not wanting to get Mrs. MacCamish on another tangent. “So I guess we better get on in there to talk with him.” She pointed to the door, where hopefully answers were waiting. Answers that would reveal there was no case and she and Angel could get back to doing . . . coupley things, not supernatural things. “You know, find out where to eat, where to lay our head. Any good sights to see and the like.”

Mrs. MacCamish nodded and opened the door before ushering them inside the small, dim room. “Would you two care for tea or coffee? I can make a pot.”

“No, no, we’re fine, Mrs. MacCamish,” Angel let her down gently. “We’ll just speak to Hume for a few minutes, gather the information we need, and then we’ll leave you be.” He placed his hand on Buffy’s back and led her to the nearest chair and turned back to Mrs. MacCamish with the smile that had melted women’s hearts for centuries. “Thank you for the tour of your home, it’s quite remarkable.”

Buffy stifled a laugh when Mrs. MacCamish blushed and stammered like the schoolgirl she was decades ago. Angel always had a powerful effect on the fairer sex.

“Yes, well, it was my pleasure,” she said, her hands fluttering nervously about her throat like delicate, pale butterflies. “Y-yes, and when you get back to Summerdown, please give Martha and John my regards.”

“We’ll be sure to do so. Martha has always spoken very highly of you.”

With a final nervous smile, Mrs. MacCamish left the library and shut the door, leaving Buffy and Angel along with Hume, a witness to . . . something, Buffy didn’t know what. No time like the present to find out what happened, she thought to herself as she studied the man before her.

A slight man, Hume McIldouney was unimpressive, someone to pass on the street without a second glance. His balding head reflected the dim light from the nearby lamp, and he sat hunched, curving into himself as if trying to appear invisible. Buffy noticed his hands trembled, whether from nerves or something deeper, she didn’t know, and he wouldn’t meet their eyes. Although he tried to hide it, his entire being screamed fear.  Martha’s words, her nephew was quite bothered by the experience, came back to her. Hume appeared to be more than bothered; he appeared to be greatly disturbed by whatever happened that night.

“Mr. McIldouney, my name is Buffy and this is Angel.” Before she could continue, Hume finally met her gaze and Buffy gasped at the terror she could clearly see in his eyes.

“You two are not here to find out the best place to stay in Melrose, are you?” His voice was flat, devoid of emotion and utterly defeated. “You’re here to talk about what happened that night.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, one that neither Buffy nor Angel could refute.

Angel affirmed Hume’s statement. “Yes, we would like to speak with you about that night and the events that occurred.”

“Why?”

Buffy glanced at Angel, wondering how much they should tell Hume about their interest in the matter. He shrugged, leaving the decision to her. Deciding full disclosure was the best option, she plunged ahead.

“Well, we—I mean, me and Angel and another man, Giles, we have a detective agency of sorts where we investigate cases that. . .” Buffy trailed off, unsure of how exactly to explain Project Paranormal to the terrified man.

“Involve the supernatural?” Hume finished for her, his voice not betraying any surprise or disbelief. “I’m well aware of the myths and legends, the odd disturbances that haunt our countryside. Growing up near the Eildon Hills, one could not be unfamiliar with the legend of those hills.” He focused on the two strangers who had come to hear his tale. “The sleeping warriors, to be more specific.”

Sleeping warriors? Buffy glanced at Angel who was as puzzled as she. “What exactly do you mean? We’re familiar—or so Giles told us—with the legend of King Arthur buried in the Eildon Hills, but he didn’t mention anything about sleeping warriors.”

Hume was obviously surprised but continued. “Yes, the Eildon Hills is believed to be the resting place of Arthur, but the sleeping warriors’ legend is more widely known around the area. True Thomas, you may know him as Thomas of Ercildoune. . . “Buffy shook her head but Angel nodded.

“Thomas the Rhymer?”

“Aye, True Thomas is known by many names. Folklore surrounding True Thomas contains mostly stories of Thomas serving as a guide between our world and the supernatural, something with which you two seem to be quite familiar.” Showing the first sign of life since they entered the library, Hume smiled before resuming his story.

“I, along with everyone else in Melrose, grew up with the legend of True Thomas and Canobie Dick, a horse trader who lived in the Borders region, near the town where I was born. Legend has it that one night Canobie Dick encountered a stranger who bought the horses Canobie Dick had with him. After meeting the stranger twice more, Canobie persuaded the stranger to allow Canobie to follow him home. The tale speaks to the warning issued by the stranger that if Canobie lost his courage at what he was to see at the stranger’s dwelling, it would be something he would regret for the rest of his life.

“Ignoring the warning, Canobie followed the stranger through the Hills to a cavern completely unfamiliar to him. Upon traversing the unknown passage, the stranger led Canobie to rows of stables containing horses and, beside each horse, laid a knight in armor. Each knight had a sword, giving Canobie the impression of warriors at rest. At the back of the cavern Canobie and the stranger found a table laden with a sword and a horn.”

Hume paused, seemingly gathering his strength before resuming his tale. “When they came to the table, the stranger told Canobie the man who can draw the sword and sound the horn shall be the ruler over all the lands with the knights as his army, but only if he is courageous of heart. Canobie, unsure and terrified of drawing the sword first in fear of unleashing the furious power of the mountains, chose the horn and his sounding woke the sleeping knights. As he tried to withdraw the sword, a fierce, otherworldly wind, something never before encountered, bore down upon Canobie. When he awoke, he was outside the entrance to the cavern and lay there until he was found the next day.” Finishing his story, he sat back, his face pale.

Unwittingly Buffy had drawn closer, resting on the edge of the chair, caught up in the legend. “What happened next?”

Hume, his expression one of surprise at her question, said, “What do you mean, what happened? He died, of course, and after his death, the legend spread.”

“Oh, I thought maybe . . . Don’t any of the legends around here have a happy ending and not end in someone’s death,” she groused, scooting back in the chair and folding her arms across her chest. “Is it too much to ask that people not die and live to give a firsthand account?”

Angel chuckled and surprisingly, Hume joined in as well. “That’s the entire point of legends, love,” Angel replied. “It’s an explanation for events that cannot be explained by anyone.” Turning to Hume he asked, “This wind that you experienced, the night of the storm, do you think it was the wind of the legend?”

Hume paused, silent for several long minutes as he contemplated his answer. “I-I don’t know, to be perfectly honest. It was something I had never experienced before, and I have no explanation for it. No one in my town does. The next day a body was discovered near the hills, someone no one from the village had ever seen before. It was thought that it was a stranger passing through who had been caught in the storm, but I’m unsure.”

“Do you think that someone is attempting to discover if the legend of the sleeping warriors is true?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of anyone trying to do so, and if that unusual wind was the result of someone’s failed attempt it follows that I would have experienced the wind before if another person had endeavored to discover the true nature of the legend, correct? I’ve lived in Melrose my entire life, and it’s never happened until that night,” Hume answered Buffy’s question with a final shrug.

Buffy and Angel glanced at each other, relieved that whatever had happened that night was more than likely a one-time occurrence and nothing that would require a further Project Paranormal investigation.

“I’m sorry this happened to you, Mr. McIldouney, and if there is nothing else, we’ll leave. Thank you for your time and for explaining the legend.” Angel rose and held his hand out to Buffy, who accepted it gratefully. He shook Hume’s hand quickly, not wanting to raise the inevitable question as to why his hand was so cool.

After once again thanking Hume for this time, Buffy and Angel made to leave the room when Hume’s voice stopped them in their tracks.

“What if I told you that after the first occurrence, it happened again? Once a night for the following four nights and four other bodies were found?”

Buffy closed her eyes and muttered, “Looks like we really do need lodging information for Melrose.”

******

After securing lodging and travel arrangements, and discovering from Hume’s connections in and around Melrose that the unexplained deaths had confounded the local authorities and the chief constable had quietly asked for help from the nearby regional forces, Buffy, Angel and Giles set off on the nearly seven-hour trip to Melrose. Due to the complexities of travel with Angel, they decided to leave Summerdown just after sunset, giving them plenty of time to arrive in Hume’s hometown before the sun rose.

Nearly eight-and-a-half hours later—Giles warned Buffy that drinking so much water before they left was not the wisest course of action—they reached the small town. Hume called beforehand and arranged with the owner of one of the local inns, who happened to be Hume’s cousin, that the trio would be arriving in the early morning hours and would need immediate assistance. Happy to oblige, Ronan welcomed the newcomers when they pulled to a stop on the gravel drive next to the quaint lodging.

“Good morning. Hume told me that you three would be stopping by about this time.” The cheerful greeting rang out in the quiet, early morning air. If Hume was a small, unassuming man, Ronan Gilchrist was his exact opposite: a tall, broad-shouldered man with a thick beard and a wide, open face that looked to have never borne ill will upon anyone. His heavy footsteps echoed on the wooden porch, and Buffy swore she could see the dust rising from the planks with his substantial tread. The first image that popped into her mind was, Oh god, I’ve found Hagrid.

“Hello sir, my name is Rupert Giles, and these are my companions Buffy Summers and Angel. . .” He faltered on a last name for Angel but before Ronan could ask, Buffy stepped forward with a winning smile gracing her lips.

“Hi, Ronan, isn’t it? Hume told us so much about you and this town, but he didn’t say how charming your inn is.” She flirted, batted her eyelashes and did all the feminine things that left all the guys in her life wrapped around her little finger. Ronan was no exception. He blushed and shuffled his feet on the porch, and Angel’s eyes widened at the incongruence of a large man acting like a schoolboy talking to the prettiest girl in class.                                           

Giles shook his head at the display as he gathered their belongings from the trunk of the car. “She never changes,” he muttered good-naturedly to himself, Angel’s preternatural hearing picking up the grumblings.

“At least we won’t have to worry about being given the worst room,” he replied as he watched Ronan usher Buffy inside the inn, trailing behind her like a love-struck teen.

******

“Alright, Giles, we’re here so let’s get to mystery solving, okay?” Buffy greeted him that afternoon in the dining room after napping for a few hours after their arrival. Angel was still asleep in their room—Buffy grinned to herself as she recalled Ronan’s apparent displeasure at the discovery that she and Angel were a couple—and wouldn’t be up for a few more hours. She hoped that she and Giles could explore the tiny community this afternoon, talk to a few locals and wrap this case, or whatever it was, up as soon as possible.

“Hmm? Oh good afternoon, Buffy,” he mumbled as he read over the local newspaper. Several issues littered the table, along with a long discarded cup of cooling tea. Not looking at Buffy, he continued to peruse the paper, marking certain passages and scribbling information on a nearby writing pad.

She pulled out a chair and plopped down, crossing her arms and laying them on the table. “Found anything yet? Or just catching up on ‘Queens Counsel’?”

“Wha—no, Buffy, I’m reading past issues of the paper in order to gather more information on the incidents. Although no connection has been made between any of the victims, at least not by the local police, there has been dangerous activity near Galashiels, a town about ten minutes northwest of Melrose.” He put down the paper he was reading, and looked up at Buffy for the first time since she came downstairs. He gestured to the newspapers scattered on the tabletop and the scrawling notes he had taken. “A group of young people, rumored to be immersed in Satanic ideology, has been making waves in the local press with reports of break-ins, muggings, beatings, and other criminal actions. No ties have been made between this group and the incidents at the Eildon Hills, but it certainly is suspicious.”

Buffy rested her chin on her arms, troubled by what Giles said but not quite understanding the implications. “So you think this group of Satanists is trying to discover the supposed sleeping knights and what, raise them in order to form their own personal demonic army?” Yeah, it was bad and certainly something that should be stopped, but wasn’t it an issue more for the police than their team? “Giles, I’m not saying what they’re doing is right, but why does it concern us? I mean, do we really have to do anything? Call the police, tell them your suspicions and let’s go.”

Giles removed his glasses and took out a handkerchief from his jacket pocket. Cleaning the glasses, he attempted to explain.  “It’s not quite that simple, Buffy. You know how easy it is for people to discount what is going on right in front of them. How many times have we been met with disbelief from those unfamiliar with the supernatural when attempting to solve a case?” 

She shrugged, conceding his point. “But what can we do? It’s not like they’re doing the bidding of a demon.” Giles’ frustrated glare left her scrambling. “I mean, of course they are, hello Satan, but not like a real, actual demon I can kill, right? So, what are we supposed to do?”

“I don’t know, Buffy. That’s why I’m researching. It would be easier if they were attempting to raise some unknown demon or doing the demon’s bidding because then we would know how to handle it,” Giles replied. “However, this is a slightly unfamiliar situation and one that requires more diligent research. From all of us, I might add.”

“Fine,” she muttered. “Where do I need to start?”

*****

Hours later Buffy entered the room, Angel still asleep on the bed. She crept slowly to the bed, using her predatory skills to surprise her unsuspecting prey. Placing one knee on the bed slowly as to not wake Angel, followed by the other, she leaned over her sleeping lover and placed nibbling kisses along his jaw.

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” she whispered. “Time for us to go a-hunting.”

He opened one eye, the other eye was buried in the pillow, and grimaced. “Discovered the Big Bad?”

“No,” Buffy grumbled, displeasure coloring her voice. “There may not even be a Big Bad, we still have to research, but right now, I need to get out of this inn. Join me?”

“Always.  Fill me in on patrol?”

“Sure. I doubt we’ll find much outside anyway.” She grinned slyly before continuing. “Which just means we’ll have to find another way to burn that excess energy.”

Echoing her grin, he leaned up to kiss her, deepening the kiss as she responded. “I think I might know of a way,” he said when they pulled apart.

“Do tell.”

“Well, I’m not one for words. “ He grabbed a giggling Buffy, tumbling her to the bed and rolling her underneath him. “I’d rather show.”

“Maybe we can forget patrol for tonight. After all, I think there are more,” she wiggled underneath him and grinned, “pressing matters to take care of.”

A knock on the door interrupted any further amorous activities. “Buffy, Angel, could you join me in the dining room?”

Buffy sighed and Angel buried his head in her chest. “We’ll be right there, Giles.” She pushed Angel from her before rolling off the bed. “Rain check?”

Angel nodded. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. It was going to be a long night.

******

“You don’t think this is another group that’s trying to raise Eyghon, do you? Because I am not paying to have another tattoo removed.” 

The group had been researching for most of the night but unable to find any solid links between the activities in Galashiels and the wind near the Eildon Hills. Unable to scour the internet for more information they were relying on the newspaper articles and the information found in the books Giles brought to aid in their investigation.

Giles grimaced at the mention of his long-ago foray into the occult. It was not something he was proud of, and the fact that those close to him had been hurt by the demons from his past still haunted him. “No, I don’t believe that to be the case here. Eyghon was more for a visceral thrill, the high that was brought forth when it moved from body to body. The activities in Galashiels are too public. I’m not sure what we’re dealing with here, if anything. There were no distinguishing marks on the bodies, at least none reported in the news, and the more I read on the criminal actions in Galashiels the more I believe they are the actions of a disturbed group of young men and women, but nothing supernatural.”

“Great. So we drove nearly nine hours to research a case that’s not even a case? Giles, you so owe me for this. I could be in my own bed right no—“

“I’m not the one who came rushing in after speaking with Hume McIldouney, bellowing that we had to investigate the ‘freaky deaky goings-on’ in Mel—“

“I do not bellow! Angel, do I bellow? I’ve never bel—“

Angel, his head buried in Kane’s Twilight Compendium and ignoring Buffy and Giles as they continued to bicker, suddenly cried out, “I think I have something.”

The squabbling instantly ceased, and two pairs of eyes met Angel’s across the table. He held up the book and waved it slightly at them. “I may have found the connection we’re looking for.”

Giles jumped from his seat and rushed to the other side. Angel directed him to the passage he had been reading and waited patiently while the other man read it.

“Interesting. Rather than a satanic cult, it appears that we may be facing a Gvorniakian cult. I wasn’t aware th—“

“Gah-what?” Buffy interrupted.

Sighing patiently, he was used to Buffy’s interruptions after all, Giles clarified the demon’s name. “Gvorniak. A demon of untold strength and maliciousness, Gvorniak or rather, followers of Gvorniak, often engage in destructive, harmful behaviors to themselves and others. Similar to the Judge, Gvorniak could not be destroyed and could regenerate at will.”

“I have to go up against some kind of freak Superman-indestructible demon? Giiiiles,” Buffy whined.

Giles reached for another book scattered amongst the numerous volumes littering the table and began reading. “No, I don’t think you’ll have to fight the demon itself. Ahh, yes, here it is.” He indicated the page he was reading and handed the book to Angel. Directing his attention to Buffy, he resumed his lecture while Angel read. “Gvorniak was banished to a hell dimension in the 15th century. Since that time, there have been stories of his followers attempting to call him forth to our dimension once again in order to destroy the world. It is told of an army that is needed to fully bring about Armageddon and render Gvorniak and his followers indestructible. A Gvorniakian cult is often mislabeled as Satanic because both share similar symbols and ideals, and many of the Gvorniakian followers engage in subversive or criminal behaviors. I do believe you are right, Angel. I think we are facing a group of Gvorniakian followers who are attempting to unleash hell on earth.”

“Let me get this straight. A bunch of not Satanic but kinda Satanic people are attempting to wake some sleeping soldiers—who apparently are buried in a mountain cavern that no one can find—in order to raise the army their hell demon needs to destroy the world.” Buffy rolled her eyes. If it wasn’t one Armageddon-seeking group it was another. “So how do we stop them?”

“We need to find the leader and stop him. A Gvorniakian cult is similar in structure to a satanic cult. There are certain levels of authority in both types of cults, and members achieve higher standings by performing various commands issued by the leader. Usually there is one leader from whom the group takes direction. This leader is the driving force behind the cult. However, in the case of a Gvorniakian cult, although the members look human, and in fact, have many characteristics of human in regards to their physical bodies, they are distinctly not human, regardless of however much they may appear to be. One aspect that is very similar to both cults is this: destroy the leader, destroy the cult,” Giles said, studying Buffy carefully. Her expression revealed nothing, but Giles knew that she was bothered by the rather offhand command to destroy the leader. Fighting and killing demons was second nature to Buffy after nearly a decade of being a Slayer, but when those demons wore a human face, it served to reinforce her feelings that she was merely a killer and no better than the demons she fought.

“Buffy, regardless of what this leader is or however he may appear, he must be destroyed or else. . .”

“Yeah, Giles, I’ve got it. Kill the leader, save the world or else we all die. I have faced an Armageddon or two before,” she snapped, her words sharp and harsh. Although she knew that this would be the outcome as soon as Giles explained the situation, Buffy was still disturbed by the information. Without a doubt, this group must be stopped, particularly if their research proved true but to kill a demon that looked human, no matter how evil or destructive he may be, was always troublesome for Buffy, regardless of how many years she had been slaying. “We’re sure these demons are demons, right?” She sat back in her chair, her arms crossed over her chest and her body language practically shouting her unease.

Both Giles and Angel nodded. “Fairly sure, yes. There were no mentions in the newspapers about any peculiarities with the bodies and that,” Giles paused as he read further, “is one of the defining attributes of a follower of Gvorniak, the human-like body that upon a rather cursory examination, even an autopsy, doesn’t reveal the demonic nature of the creatures,” he said as Angel studied Buffy. She wasn’t looking at either of them but was studying the table, and Angel frowned. She was pulling in on herself and he wasn’t going to let that happen.

He pushed back from the table suddenly and stood before walking around to Buffy’s chair and placing his hand on her shoulder. “Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested, his voice no louder than a whisper. Buffy shrugged but rose from the table and walked out of the room. “Giles, we’ll be back later,” Angel said before turning to follow his lover.

“Yes, of course. Angel, I know this is asking a lot, but she will have to do whatever is necessary to prevent Gvorniak from rising and the cult from achieving its goal of awakening the warriors.”

Angel stopped at the entrance to the dining room but didn’t turn around. “I know, Giles, and we both know she’ll do what is needed, but what will it cost her?”

******

Stepping off the front porch of the inn and unable to find Buffy immediately, Angel felt a momentary panic. He knew Buffy’s tendency to withdraw into herself when faced with a difficult task, and he couldn’t allow her to suffer alone. Finding her hidden in the shadows of the trees blanketing the western side of the inn, he approached her slowly, cautiously as if she was a wounded animal. Which in a way she was, he thought, as he studied her posture.

She was leaning against a tall oak, shoulders hunched and arms wrapped tightly around her waist, her body fairly thrumming with a nearly visible energy. When she raised her head at his approach, her gaze was unfocused, her breathing labored.

“Buffy,” he called out softly. “It’s me.” He held out his hand, silently urging her to take it. He waited for long moments before she pushed away from the tree and approached him. She gazed up at him, her eyes searching his, before suddenly wrapping her arms around him and burying her head in his chest. He rested his cheek on the top of her head and breathed in her scent, a mixture of love, uncertainty and fear. He understood the uncertainty and fear, although he remained troubled. He knew how much of Buffy’s strength derived from the knowledge that what she was doing was right, and he was terrified that without that assurance, she wouldn’t be as effective in the upcoming battle.

“Talk to me,” he whispered into her hair. “Buffy, I know you’re scared—“

“I’m not scared,” came the muffled reply.

“Okay, you’re not scared, but I know you’re worried about having to face this leader. We don’t know what we’re facing, but whatever it is, whatever they throw at us, we’re going to face it together.”

Although part of him recognized the hypocrisy in his words—after all, hadn’t he pushed her away over the years when faced with a difficult situation, including just a few weeks ago—he continued, his voice growing more confident.

“You have to face this, Buffy. You know that, and you also know, deep inside yourself you know that you can do this. Regardless of what the leader looks like, you can defeat it. As Giles said, the followers of Gvorniak are just as much a demon as Gvorniak.”

Buffy was silent, but stepped out of Angel’s arms, moving to stand deeper in the shadows. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, flat.

“Angel, I’m scared. Not of the fight or even of what we’ll be fighting, but of what it says about me that I can kill something that looks like a human so easily. It’s easy when fighting something like the Judge or any of the other demons I’ve faced. There’s no chance of mistaking his ugly mug for a human’s but, when they look so much like a human, what if I screw up and the demon is not a demon? What if it’s a real person? Sometimes I’m afraid that I’m more of a monster than the creatures I hunt each night.” She paused and turned her back to Angel, resting her forehead against the rough bark of the tree. “Back in Sunnydale, when Faith turned bad and we were trying to discover who she was working for, that night we fought at the mansion she told me that I wasn’t ready to become her. I wasn’t ready to embrace the dark nature of what it means to be a Slayer. Then, after the experience with Dracula, and the more I realized what it means to be a Slayer, I fell more into that darkness.

“Then,” her voice caught and Angel ached to take her into his arms, “there was the relationship with Spike, and the destruction of Sunnydale, and finding you again, and those feelings, that voice in my head that told me I was just like them, was quiet again. And I’ve been so happy with you, and with Giles, I didn’t think I would ever have this, that whenever that voice popped up, as infrequently as it did, it was easy to dismiss.” She sighed and was silent for several long minutes. Just when Angel was ready to break the interminable silence she said, “But this? The idea of having to fight and kill a demon that looks like me or you or Giles, regardless of how much I know it is what needs to be done, it’s bringing back that voice and I don’t know if I can ignore it.”

“I’m not human, love,” he said softly.

She glared at him, a spark of her inner fire flashing in her eyes. “You’re more human than most of the humans we encounter, Angel, despite your demon.”

His unbeating heart broke at her confession and when he moved to enfold her in his embrace again she backed further away. “You’re not a monster, love. You never have been. What you face each night, what you have faced since you were fifteen years old, has only helped to make you into the most caring, selfless person I’ve ever known.” He stepped closer to her, one step then another when she remained where she was. “You are so much more than any one thing, Buffy, any one description. Regardless of what you do, who you fight, you could never be less than the woman standing before me, the woman I love. Besides, there’s only room for one monster in this relationship and I think my demon has made its claim,” he joked with a tender smile.

He was startled and let out a pained “oomph!” when Buffy rushed him and wrapped her arms around him. “You’re not a monster, Angel,” she whispered into his chest.

“Because I have you,” he returned. “Come on; let’s go back to the room.”

She smiled at him and placed a kiss on his throat. “Thank you,” she breathed into his skin, and Angel swore she breathed new life into him.

******

“I believe the next attempt to resurrect the sleeping warriors will happen at sunrise.”

The abrupt greeting from Giles when they entered the inn shattered whatever illusions they had of retiring to their room.

“What? Giles, That’s, like, two hours from now!” Buffy shouted before clapping her hand over her mouth. “Sorry, forgot we weren’t at Summerdown,” she said. “But still, how can we be prepared in that time? And what about Angel? He’s just supposed to wait here?”

Angel growled, unwilling to leave Buffy alone in this fight but knowing that there was no other choice.

“Buffy, I don’t like this anymore than you do, however, after cross-referencing the information in Twilight’s Compendium with the Codex, the signs indicate that Gvorniak can only be summoned at the beginning phase of the full moon, which happens to be tonight,” Giles explained. “As Gvorniak is a temperamental demon who is more of the rend and destroy type, I don’t believe its followers will wait until after Gvorniak is raised before waking the warriors. Once Gvorniak is summoned to our dimension, the warriors will be at its command and will help to unleash hell on earth.”

Buffy and Angel exchanged glances, both worried for very different reasons. Buffy worried that she had no weapons aside from her stake and the lack of preparation would endanger her chance of success. Angel was troubled that whatever small measure of peace she found during their talk was not sufficient to guard against the voice in her head.

Focused on the immediate task of preventing the cult from awakening the sleeping knights, Giles missed the concerned looks exchanged between the couple. Intent on using every advantage available to them, he informed Buffy that they would be leaving in thirty minutes in order to stake out the surroundings and prepare for the battle. He was confident he knew the location of the cavern of the legend, based on information in the newspaper articles and maps of the village and the surrounding areas he discovered in the inn’s library.

“Angel, I know you want to be up there, but unfortunately, this is solely an undertaking for Buffy.” Giles worried that Angel would ignore the warnings and follow them to the cavern. “Buffy, I’d suggest you change and be ready because we’ll be leaving in a few moments’ time,” he told his Slayer before turning to Angel.

“Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject, and I do share those feelings, you cannot come with us, or surreptitiously follow behind. Buffy will only worry about you and making sure you are protected not only from the sun but from whoever shows and could possibly be distracted from the situation at hand. I simply cannot have that.” Before either Buffy or Angel could protest that she most certainly would not be distracted—after all, hadn’t they been fighting together for years?—Giles raised his hand. “Although I know you are more than capable of fighting without worrying about Angel, it is too risky to have him outside so near sunrise.”

Angel glared at Giles, furious at the situation but understanding that it was necessary and vital to Buffy’s safety, and in the end, that was all that mattered. “Fine,” he spat out, “but Giles, if something happens to her, I will not be held responsible for what happens next.”

“Nor will I, Angel.”

*****

“Giles, in case I forget to tell you, I hate this idea,” Buffy grumbled as they marched up the path to the central peak. After fifteen minutes of hiking, marked by Buffy’s complaining and Giles’ wheezing, they stopped at a relatively flat clearing. With the light of the encroaching sunrise illuminating the area, however dimly, they could see the evidence of the previous attempts to raise the sleeping warriors.

“Yes, Buffy, I can’t say that I’m fond of this, either, but we do what we must.”

“You mean I do what I must.”

“Yes, well,” he muttered.

Tired, cranky and worried about what was coming, Buffy stomped over to the nearest large rock and sat down. “Alright, we’re here, where are they?”

Giles was removing the small assortment of weapons he had packed when they left Summerdown and didn’t hear Buffy’s complaining. Focused on having Buffy prepared as much as possible with the short window of time and the meager supplies they had, he missed Buffy’s whispered admonition to be quiet and the snapping of small branches as someone, or something, traversed the hillside.

Buffy, having heard the approach, slithered off the rock and attempted to hide, the impending sunrise hindering her efforts. “Giles,” she hissed, “get down!” Seeing that he was too distracted, she threw a pebble at his head. “Bulls-eye,” she muttered to herself when she hit her target. She waved him to get back and hide before they were surprised by whoever was approaching.

As the person drew closer to the clearing, Buffy glanced around the boulder to get a look at the enemy. Her heart dropped to her stomach when she saw a young man no more than eighteen years old approaching. “Oh no oh no oh no. No no no no,” she mumbled, unable to move. She was frozen in place, the idea that she would have to fight and possibly kill someone—something, she reminded herself, it’s not a human, it’s a demon, it only looks human—who looked only a few years younger than Dawn more difficult than she imagined.

The demon had the appearance of a handsome young man, brown hair glinting in the early morning light, tall and lean. It reminded her of Riley, but her Slayer senses screamed that for all of the appearance of being a young man, it was most definitely a demon. That knowledge made what she would have to do easier, but Buffy still found herself frozen in place, temporarily distracted by the superficial aspect of the demon. It’s a demon, it’s a demon, a big, ugly, gonna try to destroy the world demon if you don’t do something, Summers, she told herself, her muscles tight with anticipation but she still found herself unable to leap into battle.

Then she glanced over at Giles, his expression one of confidence and pride that he knew she would do what was necessary, and thought back on her years as a Slayer.

The fighting. The near deaths. The actual deaths. The bruises and the blood and the injuries and the injustice and the crappy Watchers Council and the apocalypses and the rejections and the goodbyes.

The friendships. Giles. Discovering her true self and her true worth. Saving the world. Having kickass healing abilities. Angel.

She wished the demon would reveal its true nature. Slaying was so much easier when the demon was, well, demony and ugly, not an attractive young man, but she had been eating difficult things for breakfast for years and one human-looking demon was not going to defeat her. Not in a physical battle and not in the emotional battle she had been waging since first learning of the physical appearance of the Gvorniakian cult. Since becoming a slayer her life had not been easy and at times, Buffy had worried that being a slayer meant being a killer. After her years in Sunnydale, and building this new life with Angel and with Giles, she knew that whatever difficulties she faced, whatever struggles she encountered—physical or mental—she would always have the one thing that set her apart from the demons she faced each night: herself.

Buffy Summers, as she had done since she was fifteen years old, leapt out and met her battle head-on.

*****

She entered the bedroom quietly, bones aching and muscles screaming. Her left shoulder had been dislocated in the fight but Giles popped it back into place before climbing down the hillside. Her forehead was bloodied by a long, deep cut, but Giles cleaned it and she knew that when she awoke, it would be barely noticeable. Another checkmark in the “Slayer = Good” category.

“Oh my god, Buffy, are you okay?” Angel cried as he rushed to pull her in his arms. He ran his hands over her, checking her for injuries, and growling when she winced as his hands irritated the myriad cuts and bruises decorating her body. “What happened? Are you hurt?”

His questions continued, even as he picked her up and carried her into the en suite bathroom. She told him of the fight, of the young man she battled who had revealed his true nature during the fight, and how Giles was confident the sleeping warriors would remain dormant for quite a while. He began to remove her shirt in order to tend to her injuries when she stopped him.

“I’m okay, Angel,” she reassured him. She placed her hands over his as they cupped her face. Leaning forward she kissed him softly, tenderly.

“I’m okay.”

The end.

 

Incredible thanks to Dark Star and Jo for their invaluable assistance as I researched possible storylines. Always willing to answer questions for someone completely unfamiliar with British folklore and traditions, without their help I would not have been able to complete this story.

For information regarding the places and legends mentioned, please visit the following sites.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eildon_Hill

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melrose%2C_Scotland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melrose_Abbey

http://www.aboutscotland.com/mel.html

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/folklore/canobie.html

http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/folklore/thomasr.html

http://www.police-information.co.uk/policeinscotland.html

http://www.melrose.bordernet.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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