The Shadow of the Slayer

Chapter Four

The next morning, it was conference time in the living room. The whole gang was in attendance as Joyce and Dawn served coffee and donuts, the donuts being a Xander treat. Buffy was uncharacteristically serious as she called everyone to order.

"OK, last night I found out that the interstate accident was no accident. A Shadow creature caused it on purpose by somehow destroying a wheel bearing on a truck, apparently the Shadow Creatures get off on the feeling of souls fleeing dead bodies: several told me about the high they get. I guess I missed that particular pleasure because so far, I have only killed soulless vampires in the shadow state. The reaction of the others to my predilection for slaying vampires was a little off, though. They looked at me like I was crazy."

"So Buffy, have you figured out who is the killer?" asked Giles.

"Yes, it's a shadow creature named Lord-of-Darkness, with the help, I think, of Eater-of-Darkness. Eater is the one who got angry enough to cast the Substantiation spell. I have a big problem though, I haven't the foggiest idea how one goes about killing Inspirited-Phantoms. Any ideas, anything I could experiment with would be nice."

Dawn asked, "Have you tried anything with your own shadow? I mean you could try pinching yourself or something. Try to hurt yourself—but just a little, you know, to find your weak spots."

"Well that's just it," said Buffy, "my shadow self has no hands or feet. I'm just a shadow, a dark shade, sort of like a mathematical concept of a plane, except I'm all fuzzy. The outline of my shadow shadow is more or less the 2D shape of me, but there don't seem to be any internal organs or anything solid."

"So how are you slaying vampires?" asked Willow.

"Some form of magic, I guess. I somehow figured out how to float objects, and I can make them shoot off like arrows or stakes. You know, just you do with pencils and things in this world." Buffy looked a little puzzled as she tried to explain herself.

"Oh, oh!" exclaimed Buffy suddenly, "there is one thing. The Shadows like to gather at Willy's bar and they manipulate flashlights. I saw several stick flashlights in their—well, I was going to say mouth, but it's just a folding of the shadow—and flick the light a few times. This makes them glow from the inside and gives them a feeling of drunkenness."

"Yeah?" asked Dawn, "and how did that feel?"

"It wasn't quite like getting drunk, a distinctly high feeling though", then Buffy added hurriedly, "I mean, it would have been had I tried it."

"Too late, too late, too late," chanted Dawn, "my sisters a lightwave stoner!"

Dawn's comment caused Willow to lose herself in thought. "Uh, Buffy?" she asked after a few moments, "can you tell me what different wavelengths of light feel like to your Shadow-Self?"

"Sorry Will, but I don't do wavelengths. But red light seemed to increase the stoned feeling of the drunk shadows at Willy's bar. And Wavy-Edges-of-Darkness said something about light being unhealthy. That's why they like inhabiting shadows. But obviously, light doesn't burn them up like it does vampires."

"So how about if we stake one down in the sunlight?" asked Xander.

"And how would you drive a stake through a shadow?" Buffy asked, a little snottily.

"Umm, let me think about that for awhile." Xander was nonplussed.

Willow mused, "Do you suppose a high-output infrared light would kill them? Or just make them higher? Unless, maybe they use the longer wavelengths to get high because it's the shorter wavelengths that kill them?"

Dawn suggested, "UV flashlight?"

"Well," said Xander, "they used to use UV for military night-vision systems. They don't anymore, but maybe Army surplus would have such a thing."

"Hmmm," said Willow, "probably not strong enough."

Xander said, "How about those big lights they use in warehouses? They're strong in the UV department; they're called HID Mercury Vapor Lights. About two feet in diameter, three feet tall, a thousand watts. I could borrow a generator from the construction site—we could pull it behind your mom's Jeep Cherokee."

"And what, cut a hole in the roof? Mount it on a gun turret? I don't think so. Why don't we use your car instead?" Buffy replied with an edge to her voice, "this all sounds like sci-fi geeky stuff to me, anyway. Of course, if it works we'll do it. But we are not cutting any holes in mom's car!"

"Well," said Dawn, "Instead of going all slayery on these shadows, how about we think about the Substantiation spell that solidified them in the first place. Reverse it, problem solved, right?"

"Dawn, you're a genius!" said Buffy and Willow, almost simultaneously.

"Except," asked Willow, "how do we do the reversal spell?"

"Willow, you did the spiritization spell on Buffy, surely you've already got an idea as to how they made themselves real in the first place, right? The talk in the bar with the other Shadows all suggested that it was very rare for these shadow-real spells to occur. Like it was half a century since the last time it happened."

Giles took off his glasses and started polishing. "Yes, but, if we just reverse the spell, then the soulless murdering demons get off scott-free."

"Giles," said Buffy, "since when are we in the justice business? Our whole mission is to stop creatures of the night, demons, vampires or whatever from killing people. We don't take them to court. If a simple spell stops them from killing people, then that's what we should do."

"You're right of course, although it does stick in my craw. So, Willow, shall we research?"

"Sure. What's a craw, anyway?"

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The next afternoon at the Magic Box found most of the scoobies in full research mode, the round table piled high with old and ancient books and scrolls. The doorbell jingled and Buffy walked in with Dawn. "Hi guys," she asked, "any progress?"

A downcast Willow said, "Yeah, we figured out how to reverse the spell."

"Really? Well good, right?"

"Not so good," said Xander, "it requires the blood of..."

"Oh no," interrupted Dawn, "not again, please tell me, not again!"

"No Dawny, no key-blood, nor the blood of a Slayer; just the blood of a few hundred recently killed people."

"Oh. That doesn't sound good."

"That's why we stopped looking along that line of reasoning. Well, that and the fact that we would need also to locate Methuselah's Tankard for the spell to work. And I really don't know if that's available."

"Methuselah's Tankard?" asked Giles, "is that an accurate translation?"

"Well, I don't know," said Willow, "it might be Methuselah's glass, or cup, or ale mug. I'm not certain of the connotation. But I think tankard is close enough."

"A tankard?" asked Anya, "that's kind of common, don't you think?"

"Yeah," laughed Willow, "next thing you know we'll need the Wandering Jew's Chamber Pot, or Guinevere's Hairbrush, or..."

Anya interrupted, "The Wandering Jew didn't have a pot to piss in, no fixed abode, remember? Although the last time I chatted with him he did have a new-found appreciation for modern plumbing. In fact, none of you youngsters can really appreciate what life was like before the invention of the commode. Crapping in a pan is not civilized."

Giles looked at Anya with one eyebrow raised, "Anya, are you seriously suggesting that you have met the Wandering Jew?"

"Sure, I bump into him every century or so. I thought about having orgasms with him, but his long straggly white beard turned me off."

"Anya, I beg of you, stop. The Wandering Jew is a myth!"

"Nuh uh!"

Dawn said, "I didn't know there was anything that could turn Anya off."

Giles took off his glasses and studied the lenses carefully while everyone else chuckled. Except Anya, who glared at Dawn.

Willow turned to Buffy and said, "It's pointless anyway, we're not gonna bleed hundreds of people, so Giles and I went back to the best texts, well, text, we could find on the subject of these creatures and we are trying to understand their physical attributes," said Willow.

Buffy and Dawn sat down. Anya asked if they wanted any refreshments. The both said no, having been charged the last time they took Anya up on her offer.

After finishing a cup of tea, Giles put his book down in frustration, and started to polish his glasses. "I'm having a hard time making sense of this. 'Shadow of the Shadowless', what could that mean?"

"Heh," Willow said, "And here I thought I was the only befuddled one. I was sure that I was translating it wrong. Unless we're both wrong. Did you see this one?" Willow flipped the page in the book Giles just put down and pointed, "Spirit of the Spiritless. Goddess only knows what that means."

"Well, there is a certain economy of gist," said Giles, "I just don't understand the conclusion, or lack of same as the case may be. Of course, part of the problem is the annoying tendency of this cardinal to start preaching every few paragraphs."

Buffy leaned back and gazed sightlessly at the ceiling. After a while she mused, "You know, the other night one of the Shadow Critters in Willy's bar said something about vampires being in the cycle of – life, maybe, or cycle of shadow. Whatever, I'm afraid my Shadow-Self didn't pay much attention. But do you suppose the shadowless and spiritless could refer to vampires? Does that fit anything?"

"Vampires don't cast shadows," said Xander.

"Well," said Dawn, "they do in artificial light. And I think they do in sunlight too, just not for very long. I don't think it's like the reflection thingy."

Willow said, "Still, a vampire can be considered to be shadowless, as a general rule. And spiritless too, but the definition of spirit can be much trickier. It can refer to many different things, a personality trait, a synonym for soul, or a sort of ghost. In that spell we did to Inspiritize Buffy's shadow, we used the notion of spirit as an insubstantial but important piece of Buffy, but not, I believe, her soul. Giles, you want to step in here?"

"No, not really."

"There may be something else I didn't mention," said Buffy, "last night I may have had a prophetic dream."

"How could you dream and be an Inspirited Phantom at the same time?" asked Dawn.

"Well, that's the problem in a nutshell. It was all very weird, sort of like an intense daydream, halfway between a regular dream and awake."

"So don't keep us in suspense Buffy," said Giles, "what happened in your dream?"

"Understand that the shadow-me didn't really notice the vision, too busy playing in the shadows, I guess. But the me-me, who was asleep, had the dreamy vision. It was very hard to keep track of it all. Anyway, there was some sort of thing about a vampire attacking someone. And during the attack the person's shadow detached itself and kind went through the vampire, and then wandered off. The worst part of the whole dream, to me anyway, was that there was no feeling of urgency. That watching someone die was not the part of the vision that I was to worry about. A very un-slayerlike dream, if you ask me."

Xander frowned and said, "So the Shadow-Demon, or Inspirited Phantom of the person, became the Inspirited Phantom of the Vampire? Sounds like an old movie."

"Well sure," said Anya, "then the shadow monster lives as long as the vampire, and doesn't have to inhabit the vampire's shadow during the day, when the sun is out, because of the no shadow thing."

"Is the life of the Shadow connected to the shadow-caster?" asked Giles, "and if so, how come we haven't found a reference to this?"

"Oh," said Anya, "didn't I mention that?"

"No."

"And when, or if, the person dies, his inspirited phantom dies too. This is all perfectly predictable and well known," Anya said matter-of-factly.

"Not to us, Anya. Is there anything else we should know?" asked Xander. But his irritation with her was distracted when his eyes dropped to her breasts.

Anya sat down next to Xander and whispered in his ear, "I see you're awake."

He looked back, "Yes, I am, but we have to work for a few more hours before we can..."

Dawn looked at Xander and Anya and said, "If you two could keep your clothes on for a little while longer, maybe Anya could just blather on about shadows and we'll find out something new—worth a try anyway."

As it turned out, it wasn't worth a try.

--- ---

TBC