A Crossover Fan Fiction
Original Characters from Robert K. Tanenbaum (Hoax, Resolved, etc)
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Lucy in Translation
January 2001, Sunnydale, California
Lucy Karp and her mother, Marlene Ciampi, had spent the last week in California, driving up and down, visiting various colleges and universities, as well as a few private foundations. They all had one thing in common, language departments. Lucy, at seventeen, could speak forty languages, that is forty well enough to pass as a native speaker of each. She had passing familiarity with dozens more, and could read more yet.
She was the recipient of a generous grant, which included a monthly stipend, so she could be studied by researchers trying to figure out her gift. She herself didn't give it a second thought, she liked language, she could learn different ones rapidly and perfectly, and so she did so as naturally as other girls did, well, other things.
The purpose of this trip was to see if there was anyplace better than New York to further her study. She suspected not, but she liked talking to people in her field anyway.
They headed out of LA along the Pacific Coast Highway on a leisurely drive towards Sunnydale. Marlene had hoped by this time that they would have re-connected in a proper mother-daughter relationship, but her hopes had been dashed. Lucy spent most of her time with her mother sulking, or ignoring her, or in a snit, or just staring out the window.
"So Lucy," said Marlene, "who are we visiting in Sunnydale?"
"I'm going to talk to a Professor in the Language Department at UC Sunnydale—surprise, surprise, mom. While we discuss my accomplishments, you can have an espresso while you wait for me," Lucy snotted.
"My, such a humble child," Marlene murmured, "yes, but why Sunnydale? Is this professor famous? Is there some other reason to go there?"
Lucy curled her lip contemptuously, then relented, "Well, I've heard of him, but I don't think he's particularly famous. He actually asked for me through the UCLA language department, which is pretty well world famous. So it's a favor to Professor Smiley. Plus, there's some famous psychology professor who also wants to interview me. I never heard of her, but why would I? Psychology isn't my field."
The trip took longer than it might have because Marlene drove well under the speed limit. The Pacific Coast Highway scared the hell out of her—she was not used to driving on a winding highway that just barely clung to an oceanside cliff. Give her New York City traffic any day. Still, the view was amazing.
By four pm they were at the Sunnydale campus, having already checked in at the Marriott just outside of town. Marlene had called the professor, who invited them down immediately.
Professors Walsh and Pinochet introduced themselves to Lucy and Marlene. Walsh took a long contemplative examination of Marlene, and noticed her glass eye, faint scarring, and concealed weapon. Then turning back to Lucy, asked, "So how long will you be in town, hours, days, or weeks?"
"Just a day or two, I have to get back to the Language Institute in New York by next week," said Lucy.
"While you talk, I'm going for a walk," announced Marlene, "I need some fresh air."
"Bye mom," said Lucy.
Professor Walsh said, "Do be careful Ms. Ciampi. Sunnydale is mostly a safe little town, but there are some strange people around, especially after dark."
"I won't have any trouble," she replied, absently patting the Glock 40 beneath her vest.
Marlene found the college's coffee bar in the student center and bought a double espresso and continued her walk. She found the trails and paths quite charming; taking in the leafless trees and crisp air was refreshing. It felt like autumn to her, but it was pleasant to walk around in January with only a light coat and no prospect of snow.
About a half a block away she saw a flash of gold through the trees. She turned and started to walk briskly towards what appeared to be a young woman running. The sun was just setting, Marlene was in bright light but the girl was deep in the long winter shadows. Her curiosity turned urgent when she realized a man was chasing the girl. That's when Marlene started to run herself, checking to make sure her Glock wasn't hung up on anything.
The contrast from the still light sky with the deep shaded forest made it difficult for her to see well. But she could hear the sounds of a fight. And heckuva fight it was, to judge by the solidness of the thunks and thwacks. She rushed on, heedless of her own safety, and pulled her gun. She finally got to a small clearing where she saw the blond girl get punched in the face, flip herself up in the air and kick her much larger opponent in the back of the head. They fell to the ground and rolled behind a large rock. Marlene could see a petite hand holding a stick rise up behind the rock and plunge out of sight. Just as she got to the rock, the blond girl got up and came out from behind, brushing herself off, the stick dropped when she saw she wasn't alone in the clearing.
"Oops, uh, hi," said the girl, "nice evening for a walk, hey? What's with the pistol?"
Marlene looked behind the rock and didn't see anyone. She reluctantly holstered her weapon. "What happened to that guy you were fighting?"
"Er, what guy?" she replied breezily.
"The one I saw chasing you. The one I saw hit you hard, the one I saw you stab with a stick," Marlene said, bringing some of her old district attorney toughness to bear.
But blond-girl was impervious to Marlene's penetrating stare. "Well, none of that sounds at all reasonable to me. I was just on my way back to the dorm after classes, running a bit to clear the cobwebs from my head."
Marlene looked around as best she could in the ever deepening gloom. "OK, we got off on the wrong foot. My name is Marlene Ciampi, from New York. My daughter is talking to a couple of professors while I take in the sights," she looked at Buffy with a question on her face.
"I'm Buffy Summers," she said, holding out her hand.
"And you're not going to tell me what happened here, are you?"
"Because nothing unusual happened. Well, bye."
The next morning Marlene knocked on the adjoining door to Lucy's room. Lucy opened the door. "Well, wonder of wonders, you're ready this morning, and here it is, only eight o'clock," Marlene said.
Lucy sneered and pushed past. "Let's eat."
Not a word passed between them as they sat across from each other in the Marriott breakfast room. Marlene sighed.
Lucy finally said, "I have a sore throat this morning, from trying to pronounce some weird language that the psych professor came up with. I think maybe it was a big joke and she was feeding me a Klingon derivative; it wasn't connected to any language I ever heard before. Anyway, I need to find some herbs for my throat."
"Herbs? What's wrong with cough medicine from the gift shop?"
"Oh," Lucy fluttered a little, "Tran gave me some last year. It worked great. Surely we can find some kind of herb and spice shop in Sunnydale. This is California after all, the land of fruits and nuts."
"Tran? I thought you weren't hanging out with gangsters any more."
"Just the ones who are your friends, Mom. Actually, I don't see him all that much. But this time, he let me in on some Vietnamese secret, and fuck me, it worked."
"Language young lady!"
"I get it from you, mommy dearest."
Marlene shook her head and sighed, then she asked a passing waitress, "Are there any herbalist shops in town?"
The waitress frowned in thought and said, "Well, there's a place right on the town square called the Magic Box. They have herbs."
"OK, thanks," said Lucy.
Lucy and Marlene were in mid-conversation as they entered the store. "I still don't see why you can't find what you want at the pharmacy."
"Mommmm! ranted Lucy, "Walgreens doesn't carry Platycodon grandiflorum, Pimpinella major, Allium sativum, or Zingiber officinale!"
A young red-haired woman sitting at the counter, studying some books, turned and said, "Ginger and garlic? Sure they do. But for balloonflower and Burnet-saxifrage, you've come to the right place."
Lucy smiled at her mother, "See?"
Anya grabbed four wide-mouthed jars from the shelves behind the counter: two with leafy looking stuff and two with pills. She set them all on the counter and said with a big smile, "Here you are! Take what you want and pay me!"
Lucy looked askance at Anya's forthright attitude, but she asked for a few ounces of each and while Anya packed her order, she glanced over at the red-head. Lucy looked at her books and did a double-take. "You can read Sumerian?"
"Hmmm?" said Willow, looking up, "oh, yeah. I'm just doing some translations for a friend from, uh, who's going there."
"Nobody but academics and language freaks speak Sumerian and Sumer hasn't existed for 4000 years!" Lucy snapped.
"Well, you're right of course, but there is a lot of information tied up in some old books that we can't get any other way. So, Sumerian."
Lucy picked up a newer looking book from the counter, "K. Volk, A Sumerian Reader, vol. 18. Hummph, I met Volk, he may know more than I when it comes to ancient language. Although modern is more my specialty, I have worked at some ancient languages to improve my understanding of how language evolved over time."
Willow looked up, surprised, "Really. What do you think of Zecharia Sitchen's tranlations?"
"He utterly ignored context."
Lucy started to pick up some of the scattered volumes and checked the titles:
The Demonic Image of the Witch in Standard Babylonian Literature,
Witchcraft and the Anger of the Personal God,
A Sumerian Incantation against Gall,
A Manual of Sacrificial Procedure,
An Incantation against Curses,
A Tablet of Incantations against Slander.
"You recognize those? Wow. But here's one you might not have heard of," Willow handed an old book to Lucy, "It was written about four hundred years ago and includes a number of Sumerian translations of poetry as well as magical potions and spells. His definitions are sometimes dramatically different from more modern scholars, especially when it comes to ingredients of certain incantations."
"The Book of Sumerian Spellcasting? This must be a joke," Lucy sneered, "Sumerian was only rediscovered a century and a half ago. No one was writing about Sumerian four centuries ago!"
Willow smiled, "It's no joke. It's from some little known English council of scholars. Pretty secretive bunch really. But they occasionally publish some scholarly material, like this."
Lucy lost her sneer when she started to look at the book. She was stunned when she started to read. She sat down at a round table, next to a girl with waist length hair and doe-eyes about her age. Lucy was oblivious to everything except the book as she started to pronounce the words quietly to herself.
Dawn glanced at her in surprise and said in Sumerian, "Your pronunciation is a gift from the goddess Nitja, you truly walk with the truth."
Lucy looked at Dawn in dumbfounded amazement and replied, "In my open mouth, a fly enters."
Dawn laughed. "I had to learn Sumerian to keep up with Willow. Then I read The Epic of Gilgamesh in the original Sumerian, and well, it turns out I like languages. How about you?"
Willow grabbed her books and sat down at the round table.
As the three talked animatedly, Marlene turned around and studied the contents of the shop. She found some of the items disquieting. Then, much to Marlene's surprise, Buffy Summers sauntered out of the back room along with a guy about the same age as Buffy. "Well, Miss Summers, this is a surprise."
"What are you doing here," Buffy asked suspiciously, "did you follow me?"
"No, my daughter wanted some herbs, so we came here."
Buffy noticed Willow and Dawn chatting in some weird tongue with another girl. One, truth be told, who wasn't very pretty at first glance.
Marlene went over to Lucy and said, "We have to go Luce, professor Walsh is expecting us in twenty minutes."
"Professor Walsh!" Buffy exclaimed, "I would be very careful of her, if I was you."
"She's into some occult stuff that you wouldn't care for. She a very smart woman otherwise, though. But she can be very single-tracked."
Lucy said, "Look, I really want to talk with you guys some more about Sumerian. You seem to have some resources that I just haven't seen anywhere else. Can we trade email addresses?"
"Sure," said Dawn, "here, I have a card."
It turned out that Willow and Lucy also had cards, which they all traded.
"Well," said Lucy as they walked away from the campus after the interview with Professor Walsh, "that was weird."
Marlene's frown slowly disappeared as they walked to their rental car, "You're so right Luce, the vibes from Professor Walsh had a very dangerous tinge."
"It was only when I started to bear down on my contacts at other universities that she started to back down. Her eyes were—I don't know how to describe it. I found myself thinking she was planing to kidnap me."
Marlene replied, "Perhaps it was the warning that we got from Buffy Summers that made both of us jumpy."
"Surely professors at California universities don't kidnap people! Do they?"
"I'm sure most of them don't. You know, I think we should grab our gear and leave town."
"OK mom, let's pack the car and find someplace to eat first, then we'll leave."
"Sure thing kiddo."
"I would like to drop by the Magic Box on the way out of town though, those girls are really on to something about Sumerian. It was really quite exciting."
Astonishingly, these are all real titles of real books from ancient Sumer. I found lists of books in Sumerian that would surely intoxicate Willow and Giles both.