Disclaimer: All BtVS concepts belong to Joss Whedon. No ownership, no profit.
Note: "Janusz" is pronounced more or less like "YAN-ush."
Note II: Thanks to Tanja for the help.
"The Beast shall enter the world, bringing chaos and destruction, and the Beast shall attempt to return to its own world, thus ending them all. Therefore shall the Key be hidden. It shall be given form, and in that day, it shall awaken, and know life, and joy, and sorrow, and love, and its destiny shall rest in love. Then shall the Brotherhood be no more."—from the Prophecies of the Brotherhood of Dagon
The monk looked up from the volume he was studying to the solemn face of Brother Istvan.
"It's time, Janusz."
Janusz was eight when he came to the monastery. His parents had both died, and the Brotherhood of Dagon had taken him in. Being a quiet, introverted child, the life of contemplation and study suited him well, and he quickly became a favorite of his instructors.
He didn't understand then just how special they believed him to be. However, a year after he entered the monastery, Brother Istvan took him to a part of the compound he had never seen. They entered a room hidden behind high, thick doors, and there, young Janusz beheld a wonder.
At the very center of the room was a great crystal globe. It glowed with an unearthly radiance, and as Janusz stared at it, enchanted, the glow within divided out to colors, swirling and changing and rippling, separating out and then coming back together again.
It was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
Brother Istvan walked close to the globe. "This is Janusz," he announced. "Janusz, this is the Key. Come close."
So Janusz did. The light within it changed as he approached, flushing a deep rose. On impulse, Janusz reached out, placing his palm against the crystal. A tendril of the light within reached out, almost shyly, and brushed lightly against the place where Janusz's hand rested.
And young Janusz was flooded with emotion. Curiosity, a very little fear, and excitement at meeting someone new. He felt the presence within the crystal, and it was beautiful.
Brother Istvan took in this encounter, and when Janusz withdrew his hand, asked, "Well?"
"I think she likes me," said Janusz.
And Brother Istvan smiled.
Though there were other boys in the monastery, Janusz never told them about his meeting with the Key. About any of his meetings with her—and although the Key was only energy, resting in a crystal, there was no doubt in Janusz's mind that it was a she—for the elder Brothers made certain he had regular access to her. For some reason, although he was never told specifically not to talk about meeting her, he felt he shouldn't. She brought out something fiercely protective in him.
At the time, Janusz didn't consider too deeply why the elder monks were so concerned with making certain he knew the Key. All he knew was that at least twice a week, one Brother or another would take him to the Key's chamber, and he would touch the crystal and speak to her. He was always glad to see her.
She seemed happy to see him, too, always flushing that deep rose when he entered the room. Then her colors would swirl and dance within her crystal home, and young Janusz would laugh with delight.
As he grew, his perception regarding the Key grew, too. She began to seem to him like a very young child, or perhaps an animal. He could always feel her emotions through the crystal, and they were very simple. She was happy or sad, with very little in between. She got excited easily. She was inquisitive about visitors, and would decide very quickly whether she liked them or not. When she didn't, she would turn a sullen shade of red, not anything like the rose she greeted Janusz with.
He felt her emotions, but not anything very much like intelligence. She wasn't aware enough for that. She felt, but she didn't think.
In time, the monks gave him his own key to the room, and he would visit her unsupervised. During those times, he would tell her the things that happened to him during the day or week, and if he was sad, her radiance would dim. If he was happy, she would glow bright yellow. He came to think of her as a friend.
Then, when he was twelve, something wondrous happened. He was awakened late at night by Brother Istvan, as were all the boys in his dormitory. They were ushered outside to look at the night sky, and as one, they gasped.
It was filled with colors, shifting, swirling, rippling against the starry black background. Janusz gaped at it, then turned to Brother Istvan.
"Is it the Key?" he asked.
Brother Istvan chuckled. "No, Janusz, the Key is still safe in her sphere. This is the Aurora Borealis." And he went on to explain how the aurora was created, but Janusz wasn't listening.
On his next visit to the Key, Janusz touched the crystal and said, "I've decided you need a name, so I'm calling you Aurora. Is that all right?"
And the colors rippled under his fingers in a crystalline giggle.
As he'd grown, Janusz had come to realize that the Key, too, was changing in some ineffable way. She remained a highly emotional being, but she seemed to gain a bit more discrimination about people, and at times, she was strangely agitated. Janusz worried about this, for he had become just as protective of her as the elder monks who knew her.
So he'd studied the Prophecies of the Brotherhood. Brother Istvan had encouraged him in this, and as Janusz had studied, he'd come to the inevitable conclusion that the final prophecies were going to come true in his lifetime. As he found out, he was not alone in this theory, and preparations were being made. Preparations he had a very specific place in.
And now, he knew the end was here. He stood, setting aside the book, and followed his elder Brother.
"Are we certain this is the best way?" he asked.
"It is the only way."
Although Brother Istvan was far older than Janusz, the younger monk always had to hurry to keep up with him.
"But the Slayer—are we certain she is the one? Why not the vampire-with-a-soul? There is a prophecy about the Key being protected by one of the undead ones . . ."
"Always look at the language, Janusz," interrupted Brother Istvan impatiently. "In the original Sanskrit, the wording is 'soulless one.' Therefore, it cannot be the vampire-with-a-soul who guards her, and however that prophecy is to come about, we must send her to the Slayer first. All the prophecies point to the Chosen One who died, yet lives, and all our preparations have been focused on her." Sympathy washed over the older man's features. "I know how much you care for the Key, Janusz, and I feel the same way. Believe me when I say this is the best thing we can do for her, now that the Beast is active in this world."
They walked through the empty halls together, halls that were sad and a little eerie. The boys who had come to the monastery around the time Janusz had were all grown, and although some remained with the Brotherhood, more had left to find their own lives. Of those who had stayed, only three remained within the confines of this monastery. The rest had gone away, hoping to draw the Beast's attention away from the place where the Key resided.
And they had succeeded . . . for short periods of time. For wherever the Beast or its minions would find the Brothers, the Brothers would die.
And it wasn't just the Beast. The Knights of Byzantium were massing, and they, too, chased the Brotherhood of Dagon. Their objective was to destroy the Key, if possible, believing it was too dangerous to remain in the world.
Janusz shook his head inwardly. He wanted to take the Knights and show them the Key, have them feel her innocence and beauty, and challenge them to still believe she should be destroyed.
Of course, that was ignoring the fact that fanatics like the Knights generally ignored facts.
So they chased the Key, and the Beast chased the Key, and the Brotherhood of Dagon grew fewer day by day. Now, as Janusz and Istvan hurried down the corridor, the only other Brother remaining at the monastery, Tomas, joined them.
"Is it the Beast?" the young monk panted, near panic.
"It is," confirmed Istvan. "We have enough time to complete the work that was begun, but only just. The Prophecies have all been destroyed, and . . ."
"The Prophecies are destroyed?" blurted Janusz. "But . . ."
He stopped himself. He knew why. The Prophecies of the Brotherhood were the secret of secrets, and only the closest of the inner circle were allowed access to them—or the Key. If they were to fall into the hands of the Beast or the Knights, the results would be catastrophic.
"And only the Ritual of Becoming remains," continued Istvan after a moment. "We must complete it, and the Key will be hidden. I will bring the Key out of her resting place; you two must gather what is necessary to complete the ritual. Only the Key matters now."
Janusz and Tomas were gathering the final necessities for the ritual when the banging began. It reverberated through the monastery again and again, as if a giant were knocking on the door. The two monks looked at each other, then finished what they were doing with utmost haste.
And they ran, because the Beast was inside the monastery. They didn't see it yet, but they knew beyond a doubt it was chasing them, seeking them. Tomas stumbled and fell, and Janusz helped him to his feet, and they sprinted toward the double doors leading into the Key's chamber.
There was nothing Janusz would have liked better at that moment than to stop and stare at the unbound Key. She was agitated, her colors run through with green spikes, but to see her outside of her crystal shell . . . it was like the aurora had concentrated itself in one spot for them.
It's me, Aurora, Janusz thought, for he'd grown convinced she could sense his thoughts, if not understand them. Don't worry. We're going to keep you safe.
He continued his mental reassurances even as they set up the spell that would give the Key form. Slowly, she darkened to a soft cornflower blue, and Janusz knew she trusted him.
"Help me perform the ritual," Istvan said.
The three placed themselves around the Key and began to chant, knowing the ritual by heart.
Then something pounded on the door. Tomas started violently.
"Concentrate!" barked Istvan.
They continued chanting, even as the pounding continued at the door. Janusz threw his whole self into the ritual.
And as he watched and chanted, a rosy blush crept through the Key, like dawn coming into the sky.
Then she was gone, and the Beast was there.
"The Dagon Sphere, Janusz, now!" Istvan commanded. Janusz reached out, taking hold of a glowing orb. "Run, Janusz. Do what you were born to do."
His heart breaking for the two Brothers who would die to make good his escape, Janusz ran.
Janusz's mission was simple on paper: lose the Beast, lose the Knights of Byzantium, find the Slayer, make certain she knew what her role was, then misdirect the Beast and most likely die somewhere along the way. Privately, he thought the last item on his agenda would be the easiest.
Losing the Knights was easy enough—Janusz managed to lay a false trail toward the west before he doubled back, heading east, then south. He had planned out his steps carefully months before and memorized them. First to a Christian convent in Northern Italy. Then to a technopagan friend in Crete.
It was there that Nikos, his friend, was able to find a picture of the Key. Of Aurora. Nikos had combed through the Internet, cross-referencing the last name "Summers" with the town of Sunnydale and coming up with a page of pictures of the winners of a middle-school science fair. The runner-up was pictured with her mother and sister.
Janusz recognized the golden-haired Slayer at once, but his attention was drawn to the girl between her and the woman who was obviously their mother.
Dawn. The Key's name was now Dawn. Janusz smiled. Aurora was the goddess of the dawn in mythology, and he hoped that somewhere, the Key could appreciate the joke. He looked at her fondly.
Sweet face. Rosy blush in her cheeks, the same color she had always greeted him with. Blue eyes, just as he'd always imagined. Soft brown hair. She was still beautiful, his Key.
And then his smile faded. She was so young, so tiny, so delicate. Why had they made her so young? She was helpless in this form, totally dependent on others to protect her.
"What have we done to you, Aurora?" he asked the picture of Dawn Summers.
After leaving Greece, Janusz continued on his road eastward. He rested where he could, but never for long. The Beast still dogged his steps. A Buddhist monastery put him up for a few nights, then sent him north, where he took trains through the northern regions of China. From there he traveled on to Japan, where he caught a steamer heading for America's west coast.
That leg of the journey was the hardest on Janusz. For so long, on solid ground, he'd had the option of changing his plans at a moment's notice if something went wrong. Now, to be at the mercy of a boat crossing an unfathomable distance of water—if the Beast were to find him now (which he wasn't sure it could under its present limitations, but underestimating the Beast was the single most foolish thing he could do), it would all be in vain.
The glamour they had cast on the Key would convince ordinary humans of what she was, but the Slayer could never be counted as "ordinary." Istvan had estimated a grace period of perhaps three months before the Slayer realized something was wrong about her "sister." Therefore, Janusz needed to find her, to explain to her why they had hidden the Key and how important she was. If he didn't, if the Slayer didn't understand . . .
He didn't like to think about it.
Finally, the west coast of America was in sight, and when they landed, Janusz wanted to kiss the solid ground he stood upon. He made his way to Sunnydale with a light heart. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Slayer would allow him to see Aurora—Dawn, rather. Maybe Dawn would even feel she knew him, on some level.
He almost made it.
As he came into Sunnydale, the Dagon Sphere he'd brought with him trembled under his fingers. The Beast, he knew, was near. It was only by dint of a wild party that he managed to hide himself in an abandoned factory. In his haste, he somehow lost the Sphere. That was his only mistake in all the time he'd been running.
One mistake was enough. The Beast caught him just before he found the Slayer. For Janusz, there was nothing left but to die without betraying the Key.
Pain followed pain, interrupted only by the ranting of the Beast. Janusz begged for death in between defiance, and finally, his mind went elsewhere. The Last Prophecy rang through his mind as he was beaten and slashed by an insane god.
"The Beast shall enter the world, bringing chaos and destruction,"
She alternated between extremes, begging at one moment, threatening the next, flirting, weeping, ranting, playing, and all Janusz could think was that this creature was a perversion of the innocent, childlike Key he'd come to love.
"I will tell you nothing," he heard himself repeat, and the world broke into sparks as the Beast's hand whipped across his face again.
"and the Beast shall attempt to return to its own world, thus ending them all."
There came a time when the beatings stopped. Janusz rested numbly in the chair, knowing his body was too broken to recover. "Someone's coming," the Beast whispered playfully in his ear. "Let's have a little fun with her."
Consciousness faded in and out, and then the Slayer was there, untying him and talking, reassuring him he'd be all right. Janusz tried to warn her the Beast was there, but she seemed oblivious—
But she wasn't. A corner of Janusz's mind reflected that perhaps this was the best guardian for Aurora—for Dawn, after all.
"Therefore shall the Key be hidden."
Things were breaking, shattering, and Janusz couldn't even tell what. There was the insane ranting of the Beast running through all of it. Then his broken body was lifted by someone far stronger than he had ever been, and they were falling . . .
The Slayer grunted with pain as her body caught the impact of their fall. Then she was up again, supporting him. There was a tremendous crash and roar. Behind them, the factory was collapsing in on itself.
Time to rest, thought Janusz. "Stop, please," he begged weakly.
"We've gotta keep moving," the Slayer argued.
"My journey's done, I think." Janusz sank to the ground as the last of his strength slipped away.
The Slayer was still arguing with him, but Janusz felt his death coming. He needed to use the last of his strength for something more important than fighting it.
"You have to . . . the Key. You must protect the Key."
"Protect the Key. Right. I know, we'll do it together! Far, far from here," agreed the Slayer.
She didn't understand. How could she? Janusz gathered his strength, thinking of Istvan and Tomas, and all his Brothers who had given their lives for the Key.
"Many have . . . died . . . many more, if you don't . . . keep it safe," he half-whispered.
That got her attention. "How? What is it?"
"The Key is energy," Janusz explained. "It's a portal. It opens the door . . ." His strength was almost at an end.
"That round glowy thing?"
The Dagon Sphere. Janusz shook his head.
"For centuries it had no form at all. My brethren its only keepers. Then . . ." He paused for breath.
"It shall be given form,"
"The abomination . . . found us. We had to hide the Key . . . Gave it form. Molded it flesh, made it human. And sent it to you."
"and in that day, it shall awaken, and know life,"
"Dawn," whispered the Slayer. Istvan's estimate, Janusz thought, had been overconfident. This Slayer already knew.
"She is the Key," Janusz confirmed.
The Slayer's face grew angry, outraged. "You put that thing in my home," she accused.
Janusz's heart ached within him. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
"and joy, and sorrow, and love,"
"We knew the Slayer would protect . . ." he began.
"My memories," she interrupted. "My mom's."
"We built them."
"Then un-build them!" The Slayer's eyes were filled with tears now. "This is my life you're . . ."
Janusz gagged and coughed up blood. The Slayer's tirade was cut off as she tried to help him, even in her anger.
Yes. The right guardian, indeed.
"You cannot abandon," he pleaded.
"I didn't ask for this!" she snapped. "I don't even know what . . . what is she?"
Gentle rose flooding blue. Janusz could see it in his mind, but he forced himself to look at the Slayer, to give her the information she needed for this most important of tasks.
"Human. Human now, and helpless."
And for just a moment, he was certain he saw relief in the Slayer's eyes, relief that her "little sister" wasn't something evil. He grasped onto that. Let the Slayer hate him, a dead monk, all she wanted. She could blame him. But not the Key. Not Dawn.
"Please. She is . . . an innocent in this, and she needs you."
"and its destiny shall rest in love."
He wanted to explain so much more. How beautiful the Key was, how precious. That she needed more than protecting: she needed love. He wanted to plead with the Slayer who knelt in front of him with tears in her eyes, beg her to understand that he and his brothers had only done this because they treasured the Key so. That they'd never meant any harm. That Dawn was the only important thing to them, and this was the only way to make her just as important to the Slayer.
"She's not my sister." The Slayer's tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.
"She doesn't know that," breathed Janusz, and the last of his strength was gone. He thought he saw the rosy pink of Aurora's welcome in front of him. Some part of him reached for it.
"Then shall the Brotherhood be no more."