Wicked Witches, Weirdo Watchers, Vengeful Vamps  (#7 of Excedo Inferi)

by Philip S.

Summary: The gang tries to figure out all the weird things that have happened to them lately. Only there's a vamped witch on the loose, a warrior demon looking for the Glove of Mhynegon, and a member of the Watchers Council over for a visit.

This episode is my season 3's equivalent of "Revelations"

Disclaimer: Joss owns everything except the story arc of Excedo Inferi.

Spoilers: Basic spoilers for Revelations. You should have read the preceding episodes of Excedo Inferi to make the most of this story.

Rating: R

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Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Buffy and Angel's return from Hell is not turning out as happy as they thought. The Mayor is not amused by their presence with his big day less than a year away. Though his plot to assassinate Buffy, Angel, and the new Slayer Faith has failed he has managed to introduce a spy into his enemies' camp, Buffy's new tutor Danielle Burg. Amy Madison has died at the hands of Mr. Trick and risen as a vampire, her own father her first victim. Plus there is a new vampire in town, looking to even the score with an old enemy.

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Part 1 of 12:

"Very well," Giles began. "Let me briefly go through everything we know so far."

"Anyone got coffee?" Cordelia asked, earning a scowl from the Watcher. "What? You honestly expect this to go less than two hours? It's late and some of us have a hard day of school behind us."

"As if," Faith huffed at her. "I bet you my tutor is a worse nightmare than all your teachers combined, C."

Buffy looked on in amazement as the two girls quarreled playfully for a minute. It seemed that Cordelia and Faith had formed a fast friendship during the whole cursed candy affair.

"I will try to keep you both entertained, Cordelia, Faith" Giles said sourly, then turned towards his whiteboard.

"As you all know, only a few hours after Buffy and Angel returned from ... from Hell," he gave his Slayer a brief glance, but she seemed unfazed by his mentioning this delicate topic, "they were tracked by two vampires wearing business suits and reporting back to some unknown party. Said unknown party apparently ordered them to kill Buffy and Angel, only they were quite unable to do so."

"Losers," Buffy mouthed, earning a giggle from Willow where she sat snuggled up with Oz.

"The vampires were killed in the struggle," Giles went on, "but Buffy retrieved their cell phone. After some ... investigation Willow was able to determine that their last conversation had been to a public phone here in Sunnydale. In city hall, to be exact."

Giles went to the next item written down under the heading 'facts'.

"A few weeks later Amy accidentally cast a spell over the town that unveiled everyone and everything that is not quite human for any and all to see."

"The casting wasn't exactly an accident, was it?" Cordelia gave Xander a deadly stare, the dark-haired boy just looking down. He felt incredibly guilty for coercing Amy into doing that spell and Cordelia reminding him about it certainly did not help matters. Willow opened her mouth to defend him out of habit, but then decided against it. Rehashing Xander's sins and reasons for them would not avail anyone anything right now. He was trying to make up for his stupid mistakes, that was the only important thing in her mind.

"What matters is," Giles brought them back on track, "that the spell was reversed later that same night. Not only reversed, actually, but undone in a way that left everyone with no direct knowledge of its casting with no memories of the rather disastrous events of that night."

Said events being the death of seven innocent people, of course. No one spoke that out loud, not even Cordelia.

"The following night," Giles continued in a sad voice, "Amy was killed. From what Buffy, Angel, and Oz were able to determine the killer was probably a vampire." He wrote the latter down under the heading 'near certainty'.

"Xander was arrested for Amy's murder, even though there was practically no evidence against him. The police also neglected to conduct any kind of proper investigation, not even examining the body or the scene of the crime. Xander was held for the maximum amount of time possible and then released without even having been questioned. There seems to have been no follow-up, either, and the investigation into Amy's death officially ended when she was put in the ground."

Willow winced a bit at his wording, but said nothing. Amy had been her friend. Not a close one, but still a friend.

"Only a few nights later we were all attacked by professional assassins, who were obviously after Buffy, Angel, or Faith. Maybe all three of them. The attempt failed and most of the assassins were killed, but left us with absolutely no clue as to the identity of their employer."

"One of the vampires escaped," Angel mentioned. "I asked Willy about her, but it seems she did not stick around long after that. She has vanished without a trace."

Giles nodded. "I expect that she will not want to be found by her disappointed employer. Anyway, a few weeks after that there was another spell cast over Sunnydale, this time by my old 'friend' Ethan Rayne. Ethan admitted that he was hired by someone. He did not know the name of that someone, only that it was a human with vampire bodyguards. Faith believes she caught a glimpse of that man in the sewers later on, but did not see enough for us to identify him."

"Well, excuse me, G-man," Faith said from where she sat cross-legged on the library table. "I was a bit too busy, what with demons, vampires, juvenile Watchers, and a love-crazed vampire/Slayer couple."

Giles, Buffy, and Angel all looked down, the two with actual circulation blushing a bit. None of them was particularly proud of the things they had done under the influence of Ethan's cursed candy.

"Anyway," Giles quickly steered them on, "the purpose of this spell seemed to have been to set up a distraction for the town's population in general and us in particular. Several vampires stole infants from the hospital to sacrifice them to a demon called Lurconis, an entity known for granting power to those that worship them. Lurconis was destroyed, but whoever engineered that ritual in the first place escaped."

He sighed, walking to the other side of the white board.

"Here end the facts we have. The rest, I fear, is conjecture up to this point." He pointed to a column titled as such. "Someone has hired two out-of-town vampires to track Buffy and Angel. This someone must have a strong sensitivity to supernatural events to have noticed their return from Hell only hours after the fact. He or she also saw their return as a threat and ordered them killed.

"Next we have Amy's spell, which could only have been reversed by someone who is, again, well-versed in the supernatural. Someone who did not like having everything inhuman in town unveiled, maybe because he himself is not human.

"Amy is killed by a vampire, probably an out-of-town job again, considering the fact that said vampire used a method quite common among non-Sunnydale vampires to disguise the puncture wounds in Amy's neck. The police arrives quickly, but obviously has no intention of solving this crime.

"Then there are the assassins, hired by someone or something to kill the same people who should have been killed weeks earlier by the two out-of-town vampires."

"Should have? What, too bad they failed?" Buffy asked, giving her Watcher a look.

"From our mystery employer's perspective, Buffy," Giles told her. "If we speculate that the same person is behind both these attempts on your life he or she must be getting quite frustrated by now."

"Slayers are hard to kill, eh, B?" Faith looked at her fellow Slayer, who high-five'd her with a grin on her face.

"Only a few weeks later a major plan is put into motion to distract us," Giles brought everyone's attention back to his white board. "The person behind it had access to the school board somehow, arranging for Ethan's cursed candy to be sold by the students. Also Ethan does not come cheap, I suspect."

"You couldn't judge it by his shirts," Cordy mumbled. "Guy dresses like he thinks he's still a hot boy toy instead of being way old."

Giles, roughly the same age as Ethan, gave Cordelia another look, which she promptly ignored.

"Be that as it may," the Watcher finally said, "if we assume that these events are all related we are left with something of a problem."

Angel nodded. "Someone with tremendous influence in Sunnydale. The police, the school board, intimate knowledge of magic, and quite a few financial means."

"His or her influence might be even greater than we suspect," Giles added. "It has always amazed me that Sunnydale's astronomical mortality rate has never once attracted the attention of any federal agency. One would think that institutions like the FBI or something similar would have gotten involved years ago."

"You think someone is actively covering up the weird stuff?" Buffy asked. "Who?"

"That, I fear, is the question we need answered." Giles drew a large question mark at the bottom of the white board.

"I'm not sure it belongs on the board," Willow said sadly, having been mostly quiet so far, "but I ... I heard at school today that Amy's father was killed. He was ... well, the usual. Mysterious puncture wounds."

"Same guy as Amy?" Oz asked.

"Unlikely, given the difference in methods," Angel said, giving the redhead a sympathetic smile. None of them had known Amy's father, but knowing he was killed so shortly after the violent death of his daughter left them all with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Giles sighed deeply, then turned to look at his two Slayers and the souled vampire. "I want you three to patrol extensively tonight. Concentrate on the area around city hall. The phone call Willow tracked came from there and if our mystery man or woman is indeed influencing events in Sunnydale to the degree we suspect I think that is the logical place to look for him or her."

"Off we go, lust bunnies," Faith said, jumping off the table. Buffy just groaned, figuring Faith would never let her live that down. It was not her fault that she had acted like an extremely love-struck teenager a few nights ago, shooting for new extremes in PDAs. It was all the cursed candy's fault.

"And be careful," Giles called after them as they left. Willow, Oz, Xander, and Cordelia excused themselves as well (or what passed for that courtesy among American teenagers), leaving a tired Watcher alone in his office.

Giles looked at the calendar on the wall. It had only been about seven weeks since Buffy and Angel had returned from Hell, turning all their lives upside down. Beside trying to make sense of all the things that had happened to their group during these weeks he was also busy researching possible long-term effects Angel's blood might have on his Slayer. Beyond those they were already seeing in her amber eyes, elongated fangs, and the occasional outburst of demonic temper.

He was honest enough, towards himself at least, to know that he was quite worried. Buffy had been regularly ingesting a powerful vampire's blood for about thirty years. No human being on record had ever done so for anything even close to that length of time. It was known that vampire blood was highly addictive to humans, at the same time endowing them with some vampire characteristics like resistance to all forms of poison, rapid healing, decelerated aging. What they saw in Buffy, though, was quite unprecedented, even more so because she was not a normal human being but the Slayer. He also feared that it was nowhere near finished. She was still changing and he had no clue into what.

His musings were interrupted by a knock on the door. He looked up to see a blonde woman standing just outside his office. She was dressed quite conservatively and had a stern, almost arrogant look on her face that caused him to immediately dislike her.

"Can I help you?" he asked, rising from his chair.

"Rupert Giles?"

He nodded, one hand behind his back reaching for the stake he had in his desk drawer. One could never be too careful with strangers, especially if they just happened to turn up after dark.

"I am Gwendolyn Post. I was sent here by the Watchers Council."

Giles almost dropped the stake.

TO BE CONTINUED