Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
In a Fan Fiction by
S T Farnham (Lancer47)
The Shadow of the Slayer
The usual, Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and others who aren't me, own the original characters and background. I'm trespassing here but not selling the stuff, yadda, yadda, yadda, and death to idiot television executives.
("Only the ones who are idiots."
"But they're ALL idiots!"
"Yeah, that's where I was going with that.")
Author's Notes: This story takes place during Season Four or Five, before Joyce's death. I want to think that this happened during the summer, between seasons, nevertheless complete with the memory of Dawn and after Giles bought the Magic Box.
Rating: Same as the show.
Spoilers: Sadly, there can no longer be any spoilers for anyone who has seen the entire BtVS corpus. And it's unlikely that anyone who has missed any episodes will be reading this stuff.
--- Prologue ---
Soul-of-Darkness was draped comfortably across a lightning rod on the roof of the new Sunnydale Community Gymnasium soaking up starlight. She wriggled over the point to scratch at a particularly hard to reach spot while her edges brushed against the gravel roof. She was so content that she fell asleep, and didn't notice an approaching thunderstorm. She was oblivious when the starlight disappeared, and oblivious when it started to rain. But when a stroke of lightning was attracted to her lightning rod on its wild ride to a common ground, well, Soul-of-Darkness didn't stand a chance.
Eater-of-Darkness had slithered over the roof parapet just in time to witness the electrocution of Soul-of-Darkness, and was angered to the depths of his soul, well, if had one. Those meddling humans, he thought, putting up lightning rods at high spots, knowing they would attract his kind, knowing they were dangerous to his kind. Well, we'll just see what we can do about that!
He drifted down the wall of the brick building.
Eater was very hard to see, mostly because he was quite blurry at the edges, and was a surprisingly insubstantial creature. By and by, Eater approached his brother, the grandly named Lord-of-Darkness, and made his presence known. If there had been an eavesdropper, they would have heard a deep but quiet whispering, unintelligible to all but the intended recipient as Eater-of-Darkness argued vociferously with Lord-of-Darkness. Lord nodded negatively. Eater nodded positively and pointedly. After a bit, Lord sort of shrugged and acquiesced to his sibling. Then the two huddled together over some twigs, stones, and odd markings on the wall, hovering above the shadows created by the twigs and stones.
The whispering became furious, some very unworldly sparks flew from an unnatural fire that burnt with an ugly glow. The whispering quieted down, and finally, after a silence, the fire popped out of existence, and …
Wolf's howl,Buffy's Theme, credits roll.
--- Chapter One ---
"Buffy! Buffy!" yelled Xander as he ran incautiously down the dark alley, "wait up!"
Buffy turned, a frown on her face as she waited, "Xand, what are you doing here? Is something wrong? Is Dawn OK?"
"No, yes, I mean every thing's fine," he puffed as he caught up, "I just wanted to hang for awhile – I wasn't sleepy and figured you could use some company on tonight's patrol."
"I appreciate the company, but you know it might be dangerous, although it is a quiet night – Sunnydale seems to be sleeping peacefully – but it usually does even during those nights when unspeakable evil walks abroad on the moonlit paths."
"Well la di dah, aren't we waxing poetic tonight! And anyway, there's no moon."
"Oh, my brain rambles on when not much is happening – and the moon thing is, you know, metaphorical. My thoughts start running around in circles on these slow nights."
They continued walking companionably down the alley.
"Does that mean you want some action? Did you visit Faith in prison this week? Did her vibes rub off on you and now you're getting the urge to kill something? You'll let me know in plenty of time if slaying makes you hungry and horny, right?"
"Not to worry Xand," Buffy replied with a smile, "but it's a dull night, I'm just bored."
"So where's Riley? Haven't seen him around in a couple of days."
"He went home for a week, you know see the family and all that Norman Rockwell stuff."
"Oh, he's back in Ohio?"
"No, no, Iowa."
"What's the diff?"
"Well, just between you and me, not much from here. But don't let Riley hear you say that, and I've got to stick up for him while he's gone. So hush. And now that we've finished that little discussion, I'm still bored."
"Well, maybe not for much longer," said Xander as they came to a wide spot in the alley, "Are those vampires or demons of some kind hanging out by those dumpsters, drinking beer and smoking weed?"
Buffy looked carefully at the alley's inhabitants, sighed deeply and shook her head, "No, I'm sorry to say, those are just the ordinary human kind of bad guy. I'm not allowed to slay them, more's the pity," she brightened a bit as she added, "I can beat them up though."
The two dubious individuals noticed Buffy and Xander watching. They immediately put down their beers, dropped their smokes and sauntered towards the newcomers. One smiled insolently and pulled a gun out of his leather jacket, pointing it at Xander.
"Hey man," said Xander, "would you mind pointing that gun somewhere else? She doesn't care, but I'm a timid guy."
Buffy whispered to Xander, "What are you doing! Don't piss them off until …!"
But it was too late, the man with the gun said, "Oh, a smart guy huh!" and stepped closer to Xander with the intention of pistol-whipping him.
Xander noticed the gun barrel had wavered far enough so that it was no longer pointed at either him or Buffy, and the gunman had gotten close enough, so Xander attacked. Xander figured, why not? After all, he'd attacked monsters and demons for Buffy, how could some common mugger scare him? So he grabbed the gun with his left hand as he leapt. He hit with his right, and got in a good knee jab. The gun went off, twice, Buffy heard one bullet ricochet as it whanged off the concrete block wall.
Meanwhile, the second guy pulled out a knife, grabbed Buffy around her waist with his left arm and waved his knife in front of her. He said with a scornful leer, "Well my pretty little miss, I think with a knife at your throat, your friend will want to quiet down, dontcha think?"
"I doubt it," said Buffy, "but its time to stop this before anyone besides you gets hurt." And Buffy disarmed him in a fraction of a second, pulling her punch enough to render him unconscious without killing him. She looked over to where Xander struggled, just in time to see him stand up with the gun in his hand, his attacker out cold at his feet. He smiled at Buffy, tipped his imaginary hat to her, and said with a slightly drunken look, "Don't worry darling, I've got it all under control."
"XANDER! Explain yourself!"
"Well Buff," Xander replied, "Anya and I had a 'Thin Man' Festival last night, and I think I might be channeling William Powell, or more likely Nick Charles."
"More likely Asta, you jerk, stop it before you get shot!" Buffy said angrily.
"Um, too late I think," he said as looked at blood dripping down his arm, "looks like I got a flesh wound. And hey! Unlike me, Asta was always hiding when danger loomed."
A now concerned Buffy started towards Xander, but her feet suddenly flipped up in the air for no apparent reason. She was startled but kept her balance and tucked her legs in and continued her unplanned flip around and landed on her feet. She spun around to face her attacker and saw – nothing. She was utterly perplexed as she looked around, trying to figure out what had attacked her.
She heard an outraged "Ooof!" from Xander, and looked around in time to see him smash into the wall and slide to the ground, the gun that had been in his hand skittered off towards the unconscious knife wielder. Buffy grabbed up the gun, just to keep track of it, and started towards Xander again.
She wasn't quite as surprised, but a lot more pissed-off when she was shoved violently sideways, lost her balance and splashed full-length into a large puddle of dirty water. She did that back flip thing she does so well and splashed to her feet, looking around a little wildly at nothing at all that could have shoved her. She said uncertainly to the thin air, "Is that you, Marcie?" But she heard nothing but water dripping from her sodden clothes.
She experimentally tried some punches and kicks, but hit nothing, leaving her feeling a little foolish. Then a searchlight beam stabbed down the alley, followed by flashing multicolored police lights and stentorian commands to 'FREEZE!', and 'POLICE!', and 'PUT YOUR HANDS UP!', all of which Buffy obeyed readily, that being the sort of thing that happened to her from time to time. She wondered, a bit late, what happened to the gun that had been in her hand – looking around she spotted it in the puddle. Good, she thought, it can wait there for the cops.
Detective Stein stared at Buffy dispassionately while she described how she and Xander defeated the two muggers. He had observed Xander's wound, and didn't bother looking for any bruises on Buffy – past experience with her had given him some idea of what not to expect. "Now Ms. Summers, where is the gun again?"
"Right there!" Buffy said pointing towards the puddle, exasperated, "where I told you it was." Buffy looked at the puddle, and couldn't see the gun because of all the conflicting shadows. She frowned and stood up to take a closer look. A uniformed officer started to push her back, but Detective Stein signaled her to back off. Buffy stared at the puddle for a moment and then noticed water spots trailing off towards the shadows. She waved her hand for the detective to follow her and tracked her way behind the dumpsters. "There it is detective," she said, pointing to the gun lying on the ground by the wall, "but I can't begin to understand how it got here. That's assuming it's the same gun. It does look the same."
"Might not matter," said Stein, "there aren't any bullets to dig out of anyone, and the one that went down the alley isn't going to be of much use even if we do find it. Still, you never can tell what other crimes it could be tied to."
"So you know these guys," Buffy stated.
"Yeah, well I know of them anyway. It's likely that we'll find enough to hold them for trial." He looked over at the now bandaged-up Xander and said, "You and Mr. Harris can go now, but I'll probably be by your house for more questions in the next day or so. You're still on Revello Drive, right?"
But Buffy didn't answer – she was staring at something in the deep shadow near the back of the dumpster where it was angled towards the wall. Detective Stein noticed Buffy's non-response and followed her gaze. When he realized what had consumed Buffy's attention he turned and yelled towards the other cops, "Hey, how come none of you eagle-eyed investigators noticed the dead guy back here?"
Anya heard footsteps approaching from the corridor and opened the door of Xander's apartment. "Finally Xander! It's three in the freakin' morning! What happened to you? You're injured! You're not injured anywhere important are you? Buffy! What did you do to Xander? Never mind, just go away so we can get naked and have sex."
"I didn't do anything! Jeez! What do you think happened? We surprised some low-life's down in the alley and Xand got a little wound during the fight. God! You guys are like bunnies!"
"Buffy! That's nasty thing to say!"
"Sorry Anya, I didn't mean it like that. Good night Xander, Anya."
The next day at the Magic Shop everyone was sitting at the round table, except Anya, who was helping some customers.
"It was really weird Giles," Buffy said, "I didn't feel anything at all, no hands of indeterminate temperature, no tripwires or ropes or anything, my feet just took off into the air and I had no choice but to follow my feet. Then, when I fell into the puddle, I was shoved, except without anything touching me, I just kind of – hell, I can't explain it. You try Xander."
"I can't add anything, I mean I was watching, trying figure out why Buffy was suddenly doing gymnastics, but it was hard to see what with all the shadows moving around and everything. I have no idea why I suddenly flew into the wall, I was hit violently without anyone hitting me, violently or otherwise. Pretty disquieting if you ask me," said Xander, scratching at his bandage.
"Moving shadows?" asked Willow, "what was causing the shadows?"
"Well, for there to be a shadow you have to have a light, and something in front of the light, and a surface for the light that isn't blocked to fall on," Willow lectured pedantically. "You have to have all three, otherwise you get nothing—well not nothing, but no shadows anyway. And for the shadows to be moving, either the light or the shadow casting object, or both, must be moving: there's more to it than that of course, but we don't need to get into umbras, penumbras, quadratic equations ..."
"Thank God for small favors!" Xander interrupted.
"... and the like right now," Willow finished, with a glare Xander-wards.
Xander and Buffy looked at each other, a little startled. "You know," said Buffy, "there were more shadows than there should have been, I'm thinking. But what could that mean? Possessed shadows?"
"Yeah right," laughed Dawn, "Shadow Monsters! What could they do to you?" She looked amused and then looked at her shadow on the floor, and frowned. "Well, my shadow is were it belongs."
"Mine too," everyone except Anya chorused, looking nervously at the floors and walls.
Giles suggested, "Not to be the contrarian, but there must be some rather more mundane explanation. You're grasping at straws, or thin air. In thirty odd years of research into the demonic world, I've never come across such a reference. Things that hide in shadow, yes, but actively demonic shadows? I think not!"
"Oh, Shadow Monsters," Anya blurted, "they're usually harmless."
There was an extended silence while everyone stared at Anya, except Dawn who was frantically trying to watch all the shadows in the store simultaneously.
Giles finally spoke up, "And what, dare I ask, are you talking about Anya?"
"You know, Shadow Monsters, sometimes called Hell Shadows, Devil Shades, hobgoblins – but that's incorrect, Night Beasties, Free Shadows – that sounds kind of cute doesn't it? But the most accurate name, at least in English, is Inspirited Shade of Phantom."
"Inspirited … but of course!" Giles exclaimed excitedly, "I remember a vague reference now. Hold on now, I must get some reference books out of storage, perhaps it's in The Compleat Compendium of Odd Demons, by Cardinal – oh, something or other – I'll be right back!" And he tore off to the basement in full research mode.
"Dang," said Xander, looking at Willow, "we should have had a bet down!"
"I would have won," Willow said primly.
"Hey," Dawn shouted, now standing on her stool, "Shadow Monsters! Get cracking! We could be attacked anywhere, anytime!"
"Not quite anywhere, surely not in bright sunlight, and maybe we could defeat them at night with bright flashlights," suggested Willow.
"Well," said Anya, "maybe. The last time I encountered such creatures electric lights hadn't been invented yet. They did have lanterns, but those just make the shadows more flickery and mysterious."
Tara spoke up for the first time, "So, so we won't use lanterns, and Anya, just what do you mean by 'u, usually' not dangerous?"
"You see, most of the time they're just shadows. Even if they become restless about all they can do is detach themselves from the projected shadow and wander about. The real shadow stays behind of course; the Shadow Monster just leaves it's usual haunt. Many shadows are inhabited, by the way, maybe most shadows, but we aren't equipped to notice."
"Oh thank you for that thought," Dawn said, annoyed.
"But," continued Anya, "once in while, when the moon is in the dark phase, and some outside influence makes the Shadow Creature angry, they can perform some kind of ritual that makes it possible for them to interact with reality, that's when they become Shadow Monsters.
"Now these Shadow Monsters really aren't very powerful, but they are very difficult to see, or find. But they can surprise you completely when they do show up. They don't have much in the way of special powers, but they're real sneaky about tripping people at inopportune moments, and things like that.
"I wish I could remember how to defeat them, but it's been some time since I had to deal with them, and I was a powerful demon back then. Still, I can't believe it'd be too hard, they're just shadows after all, perhaps just a bit more substantial than the usual sort of shadow."
Buffy wondered aloud, "Well that doesn't sound so bad. How to we administer calming influences to the Phantoms of the Shadows? Some kind of Dark Prozac maybe?"
"And of course," Anya added nonchalantly, "they can stuff your throat until you suffocate, or pinch off a major artery until your heart stops, or pinch the nerves in your spinal cord, or any number of other little things like that."
"And you didn't think to list those possibilities first?" Xander asked pointedly.
"Well, they don't usually kill people. Just when they get angry."
"But don't they need to be angry to get real?" Dawn asked.
"Uh, I guess, yeah. So maybe they should be considered dangerous. I think to kill them, we need to hit them on their own terms. The solution I heard about centuries ago had to do with getting some kind of Shadow Champion or something."
"Oh great," Dawn said sarcastically, "Inspirited Shadow of Buffy! Just what we need hanging around the house – like we really need the extra gloom!"
"Yetch," said Buffy.
"Oh yeah! That's it!" exclaimed Anya with a happy smile, "The Shadow of the Slayer!"
Stay tuned for Chapter 2.