Disclaimer: as I imagine you'll easily guess, most of these characters
aren't mine. They belong to Joss. But I claim Luc and the Council agent as
mine, and would love to keep them.
Author's note: In 'Les Chroniques Parisiennes', I introduced Luc Tarpeau,
trapped in a nightmare against his will. In 'The Breton', Luc went from
being a young fledgling to someone you probably shouldn't mess with. In
this new story, sequel to 'The Breton', I'm continuing Luc's story from a
different perspective. I wanted to see how he'd appear to someone else,
rather than seeing how the world appears to him, and I also wanted to carry
on where I left off. This fic will have a different tone to the last two,
but I hope it's equally enjoyable, and that you'll stick with me and with
Luc to find out what happens next.
Death Awaits: chapter 1 - The Files
There's a patch of peeling paint facing my bed, and somehow it's a
comforting thing to look at when I can't bear to sit reading these files
any longer. That patch is reassuringly banal and ordinary, belonging to
everyday human existence, and not the shadowy underworld which I straddle.
There are three files on my lap. Two thick ones, and one a little thinner.
The thin one is the easiest to read, the sketchiest in detail, and I find
myself often returning to that rather than make another attempt on the
thick ones. None of them are marked on the outside, that would be against
Council regulations - though what would stop anyone opening them up, I
don't know. Maybe the contents. Very probably the contents.
I'm digressing. I'm confusing myself. Maybe I should start at the
beginning, explain what brought me to this mouldy hot room in California,
and why I'm sitting indoors on a glorious day reading through files that
turn my insides the wrong way round. Well, then. Five years ago, I was at
university, in my final year, drifting through an education I didn't
particularly want, craving action of some sort, desperate for a way out;
when I was contacted by a terribly English serious type in tweed, who spoke
darkly of things in the night but correctly guessed that I wanted something
to do. I was bored enough to go along and have an interview, and they
offered me a job - including training - that was better paid than I'd hoped
for, and I said yes. A few months later, I arrived at the secluded house
that is Council Headquarters, and began training.
They'd hired an ex-SAS guy or something similar, along with martial arts
experts and people who'd competed for Britain in archery. We (myself and
the other six recruits) were suddenly dropped into the most intensive
physical combat course you could possibly imagine. At the same time, we
learned about things that went snap in the night, monsters humans prefer to
deny, and we learned strange demonic languages. At the end of three months,
they gave us our first kills - in controlled circumstances, of course. That
meant that they released the vamp into a chamber which was fitted out with
a sprinkler system containing Holy Water. If anything went wrong, they'd
turn on the sprinklers, and we'd get out of there safe. Afterwards, when I
was still panting and proudly covered with the choking dust of my first
vampire, someone mentioned that they'd specially chosen a newly risen
creature, almost incapable of beating us.
I remember that now, and it sends shivers down my spine. Sure, since then
I've got a lot more scalps to my name, and even some fairly nasty demons,
but they don't get much nastier than those whose names are in my files.
That year at Headquarters, I met people I'd never have dreamed of becoming
friends with before. I met one of them in the library as I was trying to
learn Latin verbs - he was buried beneath a pile of books on varying
subjects, but he offered to help me out. We were polar opposites, me and
Wesley, but beneath his stiff exterior the guy meant well, and he knew his
stuff. He'd killed his vamp too, in controlled circumstances, though he was
a proper Watcher and not an active agent like me. It's partly because of
Wesley that I'm here now. I miss him - never thought I would, but I do. And
near the beginning of the training I watched Rupert Giles leave
Headquarters on his way to this same small Californian town, the envy of
half the Council and the laughing-stock of the other half. I think now they
respect him, respect what he's done. I've been on the Hellmouth for a week
and already I hate the place.
The news about Wesley came a few weeks ago. His father rang the Chairman
and left a terse message, and then the Council got on to finding out what
had happened. From the stark news that Wesley was dead, they found out he'd
been drained, and then they dug a bit more, and bribed people, and that was
when we got put on Red Alert. I packed a case and waited, and three days
ago they gave me the files and told me to get out here. I didn't open the
files until last night. They sat in my case, but I couldn't bear to read
them. I thought I had a fair idea of what was in them.
I was wrong.
When, last night, I finally got around to opening the first one, the thin
one, I started to doubt myself. I started to realise why Travers had had
that look in his eye as he waved me off - the "farewell and adieu" look.
The look that means he doesn't expect you to come back.
On the front page of the thinnest file there was a copy of a portrait.
Quite a good portrait, I think. It shows a young man - very young, just
twenty at a guess, with long dark hair and grey eyes, and high cheekbones.
He's smiling at the painter in a kind of knowing way, but it's an
attractive smile. It's an attractive face. On the back of the sheet there's
a date, 1857, and the name of the painter, and then there's the biography.
Name, nickname, lineage. It's the lineage which first brings you up short.
Order of Aurelius is always bad news, always, and with . with that sire .
Anyway, then there's his dates, and they're pretty bad, because he's
already well past 150 years, which means he's no fool. Then the Council
reports begin, in clear type, printed from the archives. Unusually, they
start before his death - for a while he was on our side. But then the death
toll begins. Massacre in Brittany. Nantes. Biarritz. Down through Spain,
eastwards across Europe. And they're only the deaths we can definitely
attribute to him. The Breton, they called him, partly I think because of
that first horrific massacre in Morbihan, and partly because of his
origins. As vampires go, he's kept a low profile, until now, though several
of those reports made my blood run cold. But I got through his file, and
turned to the next.
That one spelt trouble as soon as I flipped over the cover. A female,
blonde and beautiful, and of course I knew that face. Everyone knows that
face, for Darla has been around longer than almost any other vamp on
record. Nearly four centuries now, and she's not looking like giving up
just yet - well, to be strictly fair, she did get dusted a few years back,
but in an ironic and terrible twist of fate was resurrected. Now, they
think she's back to her old killing ways. Sire, Heinrich Nest, a skeletal
creature luckily killed by the Slayer. Her true name is unknown - to the
Council, she has always been simply Darla. Beautiful, and lethal. Her file
was ghastly, reading like a guide to the world written in blood, and I
stopped twice reading through it.
I left the last file until this evening. If I'm truthful with myself, I
knew who it would be. I hated university, but I'm not stupid, and I can put
two and two together and make four. Yet the confirmation, in the form of
another portrait, made me slam the cover shut and run for the bathroom.
At the Council, they say that they sent people after him before, and that
nobody ever won. That his victims number thousands and thousands. He's the
sort of vampire you run from, as far and as fast as you possibly can, and
you never, ever, stop running.
I open the file again, steeled against whatever I'm about to read, and gaze
for a moment at that angelic face. It's another old portrait, and he's
wearing deep red velvet and lace, dark hair tied back, dark eyes gazing
right out at you. He wears a charming, lopsided smile and the painter has
caught the way the light reflects off his cheekbones and the deep brow.
It's the sort of face that would make a movie star these days. I turn the
page, and read the details, though I know them already. Angelus, the
Scourge of Europe, Order of Aurelius, sired by Darla. 1727 - 1753, and then
1753 to the present. A note adds, "Cursed with a soul by Romani, 1898,
curse lost 1997, recursed 1998 (see notes)." Below that, someone has added
in blue biro, "Believed uncursed 2001."
Slowly, I begin to read. It's a litany of torture and mayhem and terror.
Words leap out at me, images fill my mind. I doubt I'll sleep tonight. And
it's not like I wasn't prepared for this, not like I hadn't known what to
expect. I stop after thirty years of reports and get a glass of whisky.
After one hundred I refill the glass.
It gets better when I reach the twentieth century, and the reports dwindle
to vague sightings and vaguer rumours. And it's fine when I read the
reports filed from this little town by Rupert Giles, apart from the niggle
that's a product of Watcher training, which wonders what a Slayer saw in a
vampire. My reading actually slows, as I savour the peace, and then
abruptly speeds up again with the list of crimes on the Hellmouth, and the
photographs (stolen from police files?) of the scene carefully laid out for
Then I come upon a few, terse pages signed by Wesley, describing nights
spent saving lives in the presence of this vampire, speaking of guilt and
honour and other words I can imagine him furiously typing, raging against
the Watcher's Council that had let him down. My friend shouldn't have been
disavowed - I always knew that, and these words make it clear. Poor Wesley,
found dead in a Los Angeles alleyway.
At the end of the file there are the few pages gleaned from recent
research, linking back to the first file, and the guess that Angel, the
vampire-with-a-soul, is once again Angelus; and a brief appendix touching
on the current Slayer. I close the file firmly, and down the rest of my
whisky as I review in my mind my task.
Travers said it succinctly. "Find them. Dust them. Do not contact the
Slayer or Mr Giles. Good luck." That's my brief. I think finding them -
Darla, Angelus, Luc - will be easy. I think dusting them will be
impossible. I am human, and they are not. I am well trained, and I'm a
tall, well-built man, but the stories say so is Angelus, and he knows how
to fight with all the advantages of vampiric speed and strength. I know I
can't do this alone.
Travers ordered me not to contact the Slayer, but disobeying the Council
seems to be my main option. Staring at that patch of peeling paint, there
seems to be a large tick in it, supporting my conclusion. Either I run, or
I try and dust these three, in which case I'll die. I'm not ready for that,
not yet. Option three is my best plan - find the Slayer and enlist her
help. Together, we might stand a chance. Apart, and in a little while the
Council will be one Slayer and one active agent shorter.
I lock the files into my case and start to arm myself. As soon as it is
dark, I'm going to find Buffy Summers, and explain everything.