CHAPTER ONE: REVELATIONS
The rain beat against the mullion windows of the library at Linden Hall. Buffy looked up as the flash of lightening was followed by a rumbling crack of thunder that shook the castle down to its foundations. Typical English weather, thought Buffy. She glanced back down at the amulet that she fingered in her hand as another flash lit up the English countryside.
Yes, the same amulet that Spike had worn three years ago to shut the Hellmouth in Sunnydale. Angel had sent it to her as a peace offering during his stint at Wolfram & Hart. This was a token of his good will towards her. She thought it was more like a bribe. He used it as a way to entice her to come to L.A. and aid him in his war with The Circle of the Black Thorn. And he desperately needed her help. They had all thought that Angel had gone to the dark side. His irrational behavior…with being in charge of the L.A. offices of that evil law firm run by demons. It was so against the true nature of Angel. But nevertheless, Buffy kept a close eye on him and a safe distance.
Angels' Apocalypse, (that's how the Council referred to it) was probably the worst battle Buffy ever fought in. Greater than the one with Glory and much longer. Her blood would not shut these doors that were opened. And L.A.'s not even on a Hellmouth. It was devastating. Many Slayer lives were lost. But they won! And that's all that counts in the end, right?
Buffy's life had changed so much since leaving California. She and the Scoobies immediately left the country and went to England with Giles. Since all their homes were destroyed it only made perfect sense. Besides, it was now up to Giles to take charge of the Council. None of the surviving Watchers would argue with him as he now had an army of Slayers to back him up. Especially Buffy. And of course our favorite witch as well.
They had jetted off to Giles estate first. They used that as a base while Giles tried to contact all the surviving Watchers throughout the world. They were notified about Willows spell that activated all the potential Slayers on earth. Eight hundred thirty seven, to be exact. All over the world. All needing training and guidance. Willow had tipped the scales in their favor so dramatically with that one spell. Willow herself had become more like a magically inclined Slayer. She fought with the big bads as much as any of the other girls. She could stand alone. And that was saying something.
So, with the help of the other Slayers that the gang already had, they searched far and wide for these girls scattered about the world. A seemingly difficult task, but it wasn't so. Whenever a potential Slayer was born, their name magically appeared in a book called Futurus de Librum (Book of Potentials). This was the tool that the Watchers had used in the past to find their girl. It now listed all the Slayers that had been activated, regardless of age. Buffy would soon discover what resources the Council had at its disposal. And when she got a clear reading on things – she was pissed.
First of all, the Council had so much money at their disposal it nearly made Buffy puke. She had no idea that their funding came from nearly every country on the planet. Something like a demon fund. Whenever one of the contributing countries had a monster problem, they contacted the Council and the Slayer was dispatched to fix said problem. But for some reason, only the Watchers got the money. No Slayer received a paycheck. The thought of that really hit Buffy hard. She recalled all too well how she couldn't pay her bills and nearly lost her home. All the while, the Watchers lived in the lap of luxury. But no more. Buffy would see to that.
The reorganization was still under way and Buffy played a great role in that. Slayers now got paid for one thing. If one is going to put their ass on the line, one should be compensated well for it. There was plenty to go around. And the countries that did not contribute to the fund would not be without the aid of a Slayer if they had a demon problem; they were there to help everyone.
Buffy, Xander and Willow helped Giles set up headquarters in London. The new building was finally completed and up and running. They all took positions at the Council. The one thing they never wanted to be was a Watcher. But the need for them was so great that they didn't have much choice. They had a lot of experience in fighting the good fight and that alone qualified them for their seats. Buffy became second in command to Giles as she was selected as the champion of their cause. She would see to it that the girls were protected.
But don't think that everything was work, work, work with the Scoobies. No way! They had spent a few months with Giles after they averted the Apocalypse and then went to Italy. Willow had no idea how precious a gift she gave to Buffy by activating the Potentials. She had a life now. She could go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Freedom. She hadn't had that since she was Called. And now she had the chance to see the world. And Europe was the best place to start. Italy she chose, because of the most excellent food and the hot guys. Tall, dark and handsome. That's what Buffy liked. And she found him too. Allandro. He was known throughout the underworld as The Immortal. He was a very interesting person. His loyalty to fighting evil seemed ambiguous at times according to Giles and the other Watchers but he had always been incredibly sweet and helpful to Buffy since their first meeting at the Via della Croce in Rome.
Allandro was older than old. He was very perceptive, wise, caring, loving, strong and gorgeous. He had grown to be a close ally as well as her lover. She still had her flat that she shared with Dawn, but she spent many a night at Allandro's palazzo on the outskirts of Rome. Hell, she pretty much lived there. Dawn was now going to college in this infamous city, studying ancient languages and demanded much quiet time at home. That was a little too much for Buffy. Not that she was some wild party animal or something. It was just time for her to move on, in a way. Perhaps demons smashing through their windows late at night got to be too much. Whatever the case, Buffy stayed away for the most part. This gave Dawnie the peace that she desired.
It had been three years since Buffy arrived in Europe and it was now time to devote themselves to that consistent problem that has plagued humanity since before its creation. The First. The First never left Buffy's mind and he was ever in her thoughts. She knew that they were going to defeat him in Sunnydale, and now her heart told her that they had to continue that fight while they had the upper hand. They had to close all the Hellmouths in the world. She had to shut that son of a bitch out of this dimension for good. She had convinced herself that it could be done. And with much effort she convinced everyone else as well.
Willow had done a spell to find the location of all the Hellmouths. There were twelve altogether. Since they closed the one in Sunnydale that left eleven. There was one in the US of A, three in Europe, one is South America, two in Asia, two in Russia, one in Africa and one in Central America. They had sent out recon squads to find the exact location of each one. Once that was determined, they could proceed on.
It had been nearly four months since the recon squads were dispatched. Once they reported back to the Council, Buffy would head back to England to finalize her plan. There were still some obstacles though. The main one was that they had the one amulet and eleven hellmouths. The Council had all their best people working on it; trying to decipher the amulets mystical properties.
In the mean time, Buffy continued her every day patrolling. Rome was indeed a hub of evil activity. It wasn't on a bocca inferno but there were still a lot of beastly creatures roaming about. One thing Buffy came to realize was: there was no such word as retirement for a Slayer. No matter how much one wanted to avoid the Calling, it was impossible to turn away from it. It was definitely a part of who you are. The need to hunt, to slay, its part of your essence. And you can't run away from that no matter how hard you try.
As the days passed and the New Year rolled in, there was still no word from the recon squads. Winter arrived in full force and the winds howled with a determined fury that cut you right to the bone. It was at this time that Buffy started getting bombarded by bizarre dreams. One of them stood out in her mind. She was standing in a deserted city carved into the side of a monstrous rock cliff overlooking a large bay. The salt air wafted through her nostrils and the sun beamed down upon her. She was dressed in a white gossamer gown that billowed behind her as she descended the carved stair way. Her feet were shoeless and the stone felt cool beneath her feet.
At the bottom of the stairs she continued to amble to the docks. It was dead quiet; even the water seemed to be abnormally still. She sat at the edge of the dock dangling her feet over the edge. She had a sense that she was waiting for someone. She was expected. "You made it Bella," she heard an all too familiar voice breaking the silence. She turned her head to get a better view of Allandro. "I hope you weren't waiting long." He was dressed in blue robes and he also had no shoes on his feet.
"Just got here," she returned her gaze back to the water. "Where are we?"
"Ahh," he responded with a sign as he sat down next to her. "Yes, I expect you don't remember."
"What do you mean 'don't remember?' I've never seen this place before. I would definitely remember."
Allandro laughed. She turned towards him and noticed immediately that he was wearing the amulet. "Perhaps you don't." He started swinging his dangling legs. "It doesn't matter. This is Linden. Beautiful, isn't it, Bella?" Allandro never called her by her birth name. He always called her Bella.
"Yeah. But where's all the people? Why is it deserted?"
"It doesn't matter. It's been a long time since there have been people here." He sighed and took her hand in his. "It has been deserted for many ages, but that doesn't matter."
"You keep saying that!" She retorted. "What the hell are we doing here?"
"You brought us here, did you not? It's your dream, not mine…This Bella, is where it all began."
"What are you talking about?" asked Buffy, who was now becoming slightly irritated.
"Your kin," he answered.
"Slayers? I thought the first Slayer came from Africa?" She asked slightly confused.
"That is true. I'm not talking about the Slayer. I'm talking about the Watchers. The first Watcher came from Linden long ago."
"What has that got to do with me?" she asked, wishing that he would just get to the point.
"Everything. It has everything to do with you. You have been given information that is false about the origins of the Slayer. The Slayer wasn't possessed by any demon. No," he said shaking his head. "The Slayer possesses great powers from the gods themselves. Powers to do good in such an evil and corrupt world. It's important that you know that."
"Why?" she asked.
"Because the time draws near. 'You think you know. What's to come, what you are…You haven't even begun'."
"Okay, now your given me the wiggins," she looked at him and now noticed that he no longer wore the amulet. It was now resting on its silver chain around her neck. "What the hell does that mean Allandro? Straight answer."
"It's simple. Your time has now come. Your are coming into your own. You are greater than you think. You're no ordinary Slayer. For Christ's sake Bella, you've died twice! How many people can say that? Not too many. Tomorrow you will receive the call from Giles saying that all the Hellmouths have been located. Your destiny awaits you."
"See, that's what I mean," she snapped at him pulling her hand away and getting to her feet. "One simple question, that's all I ask. And you give me a bunch of mumbo jumbo bullshit." She glared at him. "What the hell am I? Can you answer that?"
Allandro rose to his feet as well. He towered over Buffy. "It's not a simple question. Besides, I'm not in the position to answer that."
"Then why are we here? And why is the amulet around my neck when you were wearing it when you got here?"
"Calm down, uccisora." He very seldom called her slayer in Italian. "As I was saying, the time has come. The amulet was made for you. It belongs to no other."
"But Angel said…"
"Ugh, Angelus," he now wore a frown on his handsome face. "Angelus wants the glory for himself. He would alter your destiny if he had the chance." Before she could voice an opinion on the matter he began again, "The amulet must be worn by a champion, and you are that champion…."
She cut him off, "If that's the case, then how am I suppose to shut all the Hellmouths with one amulet? I need ten more if we're gonna do this thing right."
"Ah, that is also true. I can help you there," he grinned once again.
"So you just happen to have ten very powerful amulets lying around the palazzo?" Buffy asked sarcastically.
"Indeed. I knew at some point you would ask me about them. I was hoping it would have been sooner. But nevertheless, I can help you. I will give you all the amulets in my possession. It is imperative that you must wear the amulet given to you by Angelus. That one…." He took a deep breath. "That one was made especially for you. The others you may give to the Slayers who are willing to go on such an important mission."
"That sounds kinda…cryptic," replied the Slayer.
"It's all about destiny, Bella. It's all about destiny."
Buffy looked at Allandro intently. A gentle breeze picked up from the west. The momentary silence was broken by the sound of a telephone ringing. "Do you hear that?" she asked. Allandro did not respond. She looked around to see where the sound was coming from. When her eyes fell upon Allandro again, he was covered in blood.
Buffy woke with a start to find herself back in bed. She had been asleep and the phone was still ringing. She glanced at Allandro who was still sleeping soundly. Buffy picked up the receiver, "Ciao?"
"Good morning Buffy," Giles started. "I hope I didn't wake you." Buffy glanced at the clock, 5:46 am.
"It's okay. What's going on?"
"I'm happy to report that the recon squads are finally back. They, uh, have found the precise location of all eleven Hellmouths. We also believe that we'll be able to take some of the mystical properties from the amulet in our possession and transfer it into the ten other….."
"No," interrupted Buffy. She sat upright in bed. "Don't do that Giles. We can't alter the properties of that one. I think I might have a lead on that," she glanced down at the sleeping form of Allandro.
"But Buffy.."Giles stammered. "How? When did you get…."
"I haven't got it yet, but I will. Get in touch with the others. I'll call you when I have them." She hung up the receiver and glanced down at Allandro. She decided to let him sleep a while longer. She crawled out of bed and pulled her robe over her flannel pajamas. Caffeine. That's what the Slayer was craving. She slowly descended down the stairs catching a whiff of freshly brewed coffee. Following the aroma towards the kitchen, she heard Giovanni singing to himself from behind the swinging door. She stopped and listened as he had a beautiful voice, especially for a demon. He was singing Cool Change, that song by Little River Band. She chuckled to herself, finding that an odd song to hear at the moment.
Buffy swung open the door and Giovanni greeted her with a perky, "Buongiorno, uccisora."
"Buongiorno," replied Buffy with a yawn. She made her way to the breakfast bar and climbed up on a bar stool.
"You're up awfully early," he started as he brought her over a cappuccino. "Did you not sleep well?"
She took a sip of her steamy coffee inhaling the fumes that would soon bring her to life. "Um, yeah. I'm okay."
"Hungry? I've got biscotti, cannoli's….."
Buffy raised her hand up, stopping him mid-sentence. "Just the coffee." He seemed a little disappointed. Giovanni was actually a most excellent cook, though a little….odd. He reminded Buffy of the Incredible Hulk except he wasn't green, he was yellow. A big bulky guy with a real bad case of jaundice. His eyes were totally red except for his enormous pupils which were black. It was like someone beat the hell out of him and broke every blood vessel in both eyes. They looked quite creepy. His skin, (if you want to call it that), was similar to a lizards. But overall, he was a decent fellow.
"I take it that Signore is still sleeping," he said as he helped himself to a biscotti.
"Yeah," Buffy answered with yet another yawn. "Let me ask you something Giovanni," she began again. "You've been Allandro's um, man-servant for a while now."
He nodded his head enthusiastically. "Sì, for nearly seven hundred years."
Buffy felt slightly uncomfortable, but continued, "Has Allandro ever mentioned anything to you about any amulets?"
He smiled at her, "Sì. My Signore discusses many things with me." He now leaned his elbows on the counter holding his coffee and staring keenly into her eyes. "He has many ancient artifacts from the day."
"Hmm," she said as she took another sip that drained her cup. He quickly refilled it. She could feel the effects of the caffeine taking place. "Has he ever mentioned amulets in connection with me?"
"Sicuramente. He has said to me 'why hasn't Bella asked from me what she so desperately needs?' And I said to him, 'It's a matter of time Signore.'"
"Oh," Buffy seemed taken aback by that revelation. She wondered why Allandro didn't just fess up and tell her that he had the missing piece of the puzzle.
"I hear Signore coming now," he hastily began pulling out pans and the smell of bacon and eggs soon permeated through the massive room. He greeted his master affectionately and put a cup of espresso in his hand.
"Good morning Bella," he said as he kissed her on her forehead. "You're up early."
"Giles called. Recon squads are back," she answered.
"Excellent," she said with a smile as he made his way to the table. "I take it that you will soon be leaving for London? I must confess that I'm disappointed that they have returned so soon. I was hoping we could take a trip to Morocco. The weather has been ghastly."
"Allandro, do you have some amulets that will help me in my fight against The First?" Buffy blurted out. She thought that this question was going to be a surprise to him, but it didn't faze him in the slightest.
He chewed on his bacon while Buffy waited with nervous anticipation. Once he swallowed he replied, "Why yes, I think that I have some trinkets lying around that may work for you."
"You've had them all this time? Why didn't you say anything?" She was getting quite annoyed. She had talked about this dilemma for several months now and he never said a word about having any amulets that would help her with the Hellmouths.
"You never asked," he simply said as he shoved a forkful of eggs into his mouth. "Ask and you shall receive," he added as he chewed his victuals. Giovanni then approached his master with a wooden box with several unusual symbols on it that Buffy didn't recognize. "Come Bella, have a seat." Buffy left her stool and sat in the chair next to Allandro. He put his fork down, took the box from Giovanni and sat it on the table. "I knew at some point you would ask about these."
"I figured you might volunteer the info," she said disappointedly.
"Don't be sad. You now have what you need for your war." He opened the box and for an instant Buffy could have sworn that she smelled sulfur. It soon dissipated and there was only the scent of cedar from the box. Ten amulets similar to the one Angel gave her were lined up in a neat little row. They each fit into a compartment within the case. The interior was lined with gold velvet. "I'll have Giovanni set them on silver chains for you. One might find it hard to fight while grasping this all the while." He held an amulet in his hand and got up and made some ridiculous fighting motions. Buffy couldn't help but laugh. That seemed to be what Allandro was going for. "Let's call this any early birthday gift."
"Grazie," she said softly as Allandro handed her the box. "I owe you one."
He laughed. "Famous last words." Buffy looked at him oddly. "I'll keep you at your word." He gently lifted her chin and looked in her eyes. "You are a true champion, Bella. I believe in you. But now, if you don't mind," his hand was on the box, "I'd like to get Giovanni to put these on those chains." Buffy let him take the box from her. He handed it over to Giovanni who soon left the room.