Along Came a Vampire (#8 of Excedo Inferi)
by Philip S.
Summary: As Sebastian Khan begins sizing up the opposition
facing him in Sunnydale a very heartbroken vampire returns to the city on the
Hellmouth. What's a demon to do when the woman he loves leaves him? Why kill
somebody, of course.
This episode is my universe's version of Lover's Walk
Spoilers: Slight spoilers for Lover's Walk
Disclaimer: The characters portrayed herein are property Joss Whedon and Warner Brothers. The story and all original characters belong to me.
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
Problems are piling up for Buffy, Angel, Faith, and their friends. Strange things are happening in Sunnydale as the Mayor prepares for his big day, with none of the Scooby Gang having a clue about what's going on. With a spy in their camp, Buffy's tutor Danielle Burg, the future looks bleak for Sunnydale's defenders.
Additionally there is a new vampire master in town. Sebastian Khan, a sorcerer in life, shares some sort of past connection with Richard Wilkins, one that has him looking forward to evening the score with him. No matter who gets in the way.
Hell - Beyond the City of Dys:
It took weeks, maybe months, until they remembered each other's names. For most of that time they hid in caves, huddled together like frightened animals. Neither of them could remember what they were hiding from, but they both knew that they had just managed to escape from something terrible. Something that might yet try to hunt them down.
The process was slow. Even as they hid themselves in caves their sanity had hidden away as well, retreating before the terror they had been subjected to during their imprisonment. The Furies had done unspeakable things to both of them and the only way to survive was to go mad. In a way they had gone insane in order to save their sanity.
The memories of Dys were fleeting, terrible images glimpsed only in nightmares. Shut away somewhere deep inside their subconsciousness. They were still in Hell. Three circles lay yet ahead of them. If there were any shrinks here than they were certainly too busy undergoing eternal torture to help either of them. This was not the time to deal. This was the time to suppress and liberally apply selective memory.
Their bodies had long ago healed from the tortures they had suffered when their minds slowly started putting themselves together as well. Being in the presence of each other brought back memories, good memories. They knew they had been forced apart for long stretches of time in Dys, something neither of them wanted to go through ever again.
Neither of them could say how much time had passed since their escape, an escape neither of them even remembered, when he called her by her name.
Just hearing him say it sparked more memories, helped her regain parts of herself she had almost lost. There were images of another world, one that was not filled exclusively with suffering and cruelty. A world of sunshine and blue skies, friends, family. Was this just a hallucination? Something she had made up to distract herself from the reality of this place?
Hell. This place was called Hell, that much she remembered. And, almost as if by contrast, she also remembered the name of her companion, someone who did not deserve to be here any more than she did.
Things progressed from there, slowly but surely. They remembered how they had gotten here. The loss of his soul. Akathler. Their battle. The return of his soul, only minutes too late. Buffy's decision to sacrifice him to save the world, to sacrifice both of them, for she would not let him go alone. Their arrival in Hell. The realization that it was almost exactly like the poet Dante had described it in his book. Which meant that there was a way out. A way for them to step outside and see once more the light of the stars.
They had crossed six circles already. How much time had passed? None of them could tell. Years, certainly, maybe even decades. They also remembered how they had entered Dys and been captured by the Furies. Everything after that was hazy, confused. There were glimpses of the torture, the separation, and the Furies' maddening laughter.
It was just as well that they did not remember much of it.
Finally they were coherent enough again to continue their journey. Dys lay behind them, whatever might have happened to them within its burning walls was now of the past. Six circles of Hell had not managed to stop them and they resolved that the last three would not manage, either. They would get out. They would see the light of the stars again.
The previous circles of Hell had always been separated by grey wasteland, huge stretches of nothingness that, safe for the occasionally glimpsed giant demon in the distance, was completely uninhabited. The area they were passing through this time was still grey, still empty, but one thing had changed.
The land in front of them now steeped noticeably downwards.
"Hell's circles are concentric," Angel muttered, remembering bits and pieces of Dante's book by now. "A funnel. With every circle we pass through we go deeper."
Buffy nodded. They had probably gone steadily downwards ever since the gates of Hell, but had not noticed so far. She also remembered part of the overall structure of Dante's Inferno now, remembered Angel teaching it to her over and over again until she could recite almost all the passages in her sleep.
The crimes of those imprisoned in Hell got worse and worse the deeper they went. So far they had faced the hells of those who, while certainly morally ambiguous, had not committed anything she would consider a capital crime. They had been greedy, angry, manipulative, gluttonous, or refused to believe that they were well and truly dead.
Now things would change, though.
The land fell steeper and steeper as they progressed and soon they could no longer walk but had to climb. Finally, after what seemed like ages, they approached the edges of a cliff, beyond which they could see a crimson glare and hear the screams of the suffering.
"The seventh circle of Hell," Buffy whispered.
Slowly they approached the edge of the cliff. By now both of them remembered who was imprisoned in this circle. Of all the regions of Hell they had passed through so far this might actually be the most fitting for them, considering how they had spent large parts of their life. They stopped at the very edge and looked down.
The cliff was tall, maybe a kilometre or more in height, giving them a spectacular view of the area beyond. A vast plain stretched beneath them as far as the eye could see, most of which was covered with giant pools of what Buffy first assumed was lava. A moment later she knew better, though, would have known better even without the extra enhancement to her senses Angel's blood had given her.
The air stank of blood. Boiling blood. They were looking down on a landscape of boiling blood.
All pieces of dry land they could see were filled with bodies. Millions and more people moved down there, surging back and forth like the surface of the ocean. Even from up here their enhanced hearing could pick up the screams, the clamour of forged steel, and the thunder of weapons' fire.
Buffy and Angel were looking down upon one giant ongoing battle, millions of soldiers and warriors fighting each other without pause, structure, or strategy. A vast medley of weapons, ranging from the first wooden clubs to the latest in military hardware, used to kill people that were already dead and rose over and over again, no matter how often they were torn to pieces.
"The Violent," Angel whispered, beholding the seemingly endless battlefield that lay before them.
The one they would have to cross if they wanted out of here.
"I don't want to do this," Buffy said, staring at the object in her hand. The whole thing had not been her idea in the first place. She was fifty years old (give or take a few years, seeing as Hell had not had much in the way of calendars) and was personally responsible for the defence of the human race against vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness. She was living with a vampire, whose blood had preserved and lengthened her life, giving her that youthful appearance that belied her true age.
Were those not enough reasons not to go through with this? She did not even want it, that alone should be more than enough. Who had time for something like this? Certainly not she, not with a new vampire master in town, not to mention Giles' suspicions that someone in or close to Sunnydale's city hall was trying to get Angel and her killed. She had a lot more important stuff to do than this.
Of course the woman standing beside her knew none of these things, which made it kind of hard to convince her of the inherit wrongness of it all.
"Just open it, Buffy," Danielle Burg said with a smile.
Buffy frowned. Her tutor, hand-picked by her mother when she had announced that the American public school system would not enjoy her participation any longer, was a hard woman to stay mad at. She had a disarming charm that a lot of people in politics would have killed for and, though Buffy hated to admit it, was pretty good at her job.
Despite thirty years of education at Angel's hands during their sojourn in Hell Buffy's knowledge was still showing quite a few gaps. She knew pretty much everything there was to know about demons, spoke a dozen languages or more, had learned a lot about history and art, as well as the intricacies of vampire society and 18th century Ireland.
Unfortunately Angel, being who he was, had been rather lacking as a teacher when it came to things like math, the sciences, not to mention the more recent decades of history and modern literature. Before coming to Sunnydale he had been a recluse for nearly a century and it showed. Meaning that Buffy had needed help from a different source if she wanted to finish her interrupted high school education.
If one could call a thirty-year roundtrip through Hell an interruption.
"Just open it," Burg urged her again, still smiling.
Buffy sighed and surrendered, tearing open the envelope that contained her SAT scores.
TO BE CONTINUED