Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer nor anything related to it belong to me.
The youth turned and smiled at his best friend Willow as she and Buffy approached, absently noticing the cardboard tag sticking out of her bag. He shook his head a little mentally at her age-old standby then said, "Hey, gals."
"Did you find anything?" asked Willow excitedly.
"Zero, zilch, nada," he replied. "I had two bucks set on buying a rifle but no go."
Buffy smiled and started, "I'm sure you'll find something, Xander. Oh, and about this morning…"
"Uh-uh, trying to repress."
She huffed at that and said, "Okay, then next time I promise I'll let you get pummeled."
"Thanks," said Xander. "I…well, okay, nevermind on the touching reconciliation moment." He scowled mildly at the blonde as she started to move away, obviously no longer paying attention.
"I'm sorry, it's just…"
"Women and dresses. I like my women in spandex," he mumbled before ducking off into the depths of the shop whilst the owner and Buffy made talk over the dress. Angling around Jonathan – who was looking between a Darth Vader helmet and a pumpkin that seemed to be aiming for that of the Headless Horseman in indecision – he managed to latch his foot on something and went sprawling.
"Well that was perfectly slick and cool…hello!"
He reached out and picked up the dark bauble that had rolled to a stop in front of him after it had fallen from whatever he'd tripped over. Pushing himself up onto his knees, he regarding the sphere for a moment, noticing that if he turned it a certain way towards the light there appeared to be a snake-like eye set inside in green.
Set upon by curiosity, Xander turned and looked at what he had tripped over. A pair of dark leather boots now lay in the middle of the aisle, almost obscuring a thin piece of wood with something scrawled across it. Still half propped up on the bottom shelf was a piece of plastic red torso armor with an accompanying shoulder and arm guard near it on the shelf. A leather gauntlet and double strap belt were also lying on the shelf, held down by the toy longsword that rested there. And a red bandana hung from the neck of the armor, an opened pouch that must have held the bauble sitting just underneath it on the floor.
"Huh," said the youth before he leaned forward and pulled the piece of wood out from under the boots – absently noticing two more pieces of armor underneath them that looked to go over the knees. As he looked closer at it, he noticed that the thing scrawled across it was apparently a sketch of the character the costume was based on, all of it etched carefully into the thin wood with the barest hints of color. It was a young man wearing dark clothing underneath the armor and the boots with his sword in hand and the bandana holding wild blonde hair out of his eyes. The pouch the bauble had fallen out of hung from around his neck but he had one hand clenched about it and a fierce expression on his face, like he was daring someone to try and take it from him. There was also a barely legible signature near the bottom half of the piece, which he could only make out the first letter as an 's'. The second was maybe an 'h' and then after that it was completely illegible.
Xander blinked then said, "Neat. Pity I can't buy this…"
"I'm certain I can make you a fair offer," said a voice from nearby and he jumped before looking up to see the storeowner standing above him. The man offered him a hand up and he took it, shaking his head.
"I can't possibly afford that no matter what kind of a deal you make me."
The man arched an eyebrow and replied, "Well, now, I'll just have to prove you wrong about that."
Frowning, he looked at the man for a long moment then shrugged, saying, "Okay. Make me a deal."
"Wow, Xan!" exclaimed Buffy as she opened her front door to see her friend standing on the steps with his back to her. "You look great!"
"Really?" he asked as he turned, flicking a strand of hair from the blonde wig away from his eyes. He then saw her and dropped to one knee with his head bowed. "Buffy! Lady of Buffdom, Duchess of Buffonia! I firmly renounce spandex!"
She laughed a bit at that and curtsied.
"Why thank you, kind sir. And who might you be?"
"No idea," replied Xander as he rose and eased into the house without an invitation – a precaution he'd taken to heart after he'd first found out about vampires and after Jesse. "There was a wood carving of a guy that came with the costume but there wasn't anything on it to indicate a name. Anyway doesn't matter 'cause I bought this baby for a dime and its mine. So let's get Wills and head out to the horrors of bowing under Snyder."
Buffy smiled and shook her head, saying, "She'll be down in a minute. Oh, and wait till you see her, Xander. She's…"
She trailed off as a sheet-encased Willow appeared at the top of the stairs and waved.
"…Casper," finished Buffy with a sigh.
Xander grinned and waved back at his friend, saying, "Nice 'Boo' you got there, Wills. Ready to go?"
"As I'll ever be," she replied meekly from under the sheet as she came down the stairs.
"Okay then. Ladies, please, allow me the honor of escorting you to our imminent demise!"
"Why, thank you, kind sir," said Buffy as she slipped her arm through his left, her hand resting lightly on the red plastic armor.
Willow bobbed into place on his right side and Xander grinned before they set off into the night, not a one knowing what was about to happen. Nor what enormous power was going to come into play that night.
Elsewhere, a man knelt in front of a statue.
"The world that denies thee, thou inhabit. The peace that ignores thee, thou corrupt. Chaos. I remain, as ever, thy faithful, degenerate son."
He then bowed his head and waited a moment before speaking again.
"Janus, evoco vestram animam. Exaudi meam causam. Carpe noctem pro consilio vestro. Veni, appare et nobis monstra quod est infinita potestas. Persona in corpus et sanguinem commutanda est. Vestra sancta praesentia concrescet viscera. Janus! Sume noctem!"
A wave of power swept out from around him, reaching out to envelope the entire unsuspecting town and its inhabitants. It wove its way into the spells he'd set on the costumes from his shop and made them what they should not be.
As the power spilling out began to fade, the man suddenly gagged and clutched at his chest, face going pale. His body strained and the entire spell did the same as something pulled power…and more power…and more power…
He gasped and collapsed, twitching, onto his side on the floor as it finally let go, either sated or simply unable to take anymore. The man knew he was lucky to be alive now and wondered just what costume had required that much power.
Whatever it was…it made things he'd seen and bargained with look like ants in comparison.
"This isn't Seles."
The blonde head turned then lifted a leather-clad hand to scratch just underneath the edge of the red bandana. Blue eyes looked around the area and a frown crossed the youthful face they were set in as the battle-hardened gaze took in what was around him.
"And these aren't Wingly machines either," he added, seemingly to himself.
There was a dull pulse from the pouch hanging from around his neck at that.
These aren't any sort of machines that I've ever seen, said a voice, ancient, wise, and powerful beyond belief. We are also nowhere near where we are supposed to be.
"Hmm." The blonde head ducked as the young man clad in red armor sighed and leaned against a nearby tree. "So where are we?"
I…I have no idea.
"And here I thought you knew everything."
The voice growled at that.
Watch it, whelp! If you don't bite your tongue, I'll see to it that you never wear my armor again. I lend you access to my power, not give it against my will as Varusth did.
"You wouldn't do that, Div," said the young man, smirking slightly. "You like fighting too much to give up your only method of doing so."
I can find other bearers.
"That's not what…"
I do not care what that old hag said! Snapped the voice, very obviously enraged. Now…if you will, do fend off that beast trying to sneak up behind you.
"With pleasure," said the young man. He turned on a heel, unsheathing his longsword in one smooth motion, and caught the claws of a demon against the flat of the blade. Blue eyes stared into flaming red and he frowned. "This isn't home, is it, Div?"
The voice seemed to frown and regard the demon itself. Then it replied, No, I'm afraid not.
The demon snarled and loosed its claws from his blade, moving back to make another attack. He didn't allow it the chance to do such a thing. Stepping across the space between them, he lashed out with his gauntleted left fist, heavy armor catching the demon in the jaw. A twist of his blade slapped away the claws that might have severed the nerves and muscle in his right leg and the demon grunted as it was thrown off balance. When it attempted to recover, he thrust an armor-clad knee into its side and it toppled over with a roar of dismay.
Don't kill it, warned the voice, making him pause as he was about to thrust his sword downwards into the beast. There is something vastly wrong here. This world isn't ours but…I can still sense a few things. And while this beast is natural…
"This monster is natural?" gasped the young man, staring at the demon that was starting to rise to its feet again.
…there is something off about it. It is not as it is supposed to be.
No, stay here and die, leaving me to remain dormant for a thousand years, snipped the voice, its tone heavy with sarcasm. Yes, run, you idiot!
The young man snorted and turned, sheathing his sword as he set off down the unfamiliar streets, blue eyes darting around for signs of friends or enemies – and also in case the demon made its way to its feet and decided coming after him was a good idea. "Keep that up," he said, "and I just might wander into death, Div."
You haven't died in the last ten years that you've carried me around. Somehow I doubt you have the capacity to die anytime soon.
"What a nice sense of belief you have in me, Div."
Feh. Your sarcasm isn't appreciated, whelp.
"Neither is yours but I put up with it anyway, don't I?"
The voice chuckled darkly at that, saying, And adapted some of it as your own.
He scoffed then blinked as someone came running up behind him, yelling a name that he couldn't quite understand. Turning, he saw a girl scantily clad – though wearing more than Meru ever had – in what looked to be leather coming running at him. He braced for an impact but instead she passed through him, leaving him with a chill and sending Div into a fit.
A spirit?! Impossible! She's alive in every way – look, she's even breathing!
"Oh…well…crap," said the redhead, staring down at her arms. She then turned to look at him and cried, "Xander, we have to get out of here! Everyone's turned into their costumes that they got from…that…" Her eyes glanced over him, taking in his armor and general appearance, and she gasped. "No…no, not you too…"
I'm confused, he thought, staring at the young woman.
That doesn't surprise me. Talk to her, idiot! Figure out what's going on here because she obviously at least partly knows what's going on!
Okay, okay… "Miss…I'm afraid I'm a bit confused. Just what's going on here?"
"Its Halloween," she breathed, staring at him. "Everyone's turned into their costumes."
"Hal-o-ween?" he repeated, carefully sounding out the syllables. He frowned and shook his head, saying, "Can't say I've ever heard of it." At a sharp retort from Div that was the equivalent of a slap on the head, he added, "Though that doesn't matter. How do you mean everyone's turned into…costumes, you said?"
"I was a ghost," she explained. "And you…you didn't say what you were. You didn't know."
He frowned. "Excuse me?"
She must know you…well, not you, said Div. We must be one of these costumes brought to life she was talking about…that would explain the wrongness I can sense. Also the rather muffled presence within you that's being suppressed.
The young man listened to two explanations at once, Div's and the girl's explanation of just whose body he was currently in. He frowned and shook his head, saying, "Well, I can't say I understand this but…it's not the oddest thing to ever happen to me."
While not the oddest, it is still quite odd.
"You know this place," he continued, "so I'll follow you…" He tilted his head and waited for her to supply a name.
"Willow," she said and he smiled, holding out a hand he knew she couldn't shake but held out anyway.
She made the movement with him, her hand passing through his gloved one and chilling it. "Dart Feld," he said. Then he looked around and asked, "Is there anyone else you know that is out here and under this…I suppose spell would be the word?"
Brown eyes widened and Willow gasped, "Buffy," before taking off running in the direction he'd been going. Dart sprinted after her, his armored hand on the hilt of his sword, and the other grabbing at the pouch around his neck to place it just inside the edge of his chest piece so it wouldn't get lost or bounced too much. Div hated being bounced and lashed out angrily whenever he was so he'd tried to avoid the pain of that.
So now what? Asked Div. We follow this girl and rescue her friends? Protect them? What of the spell? I'm starting to figure it out and I believe I can trace it back to its origin.
You just want to go destroy something, said Dart with a mental smirk.
Div grumbled at that and went silent for a moment. Then he growled, No. I want to cause the one that dared use this magic pain. He called me and no one calls me! No one commands me.
That was true enough. Dart didn't call him when he wanted his help. He asked.
We'll go, promised Dart, his eyes flicking towards Willow, who had a desperate expression on her face. Once we help her.
"Buffy!" shrieked Willow then, turning towards a frightened brunette collapsed against a tree with two hissing, yellow-eyed creatures inching towards her. She spun towards Dart, brown eyes wide and pleading for help but he was already moving. He unsheathed his sword, diving through her and rushing towards the pair threatening the brunette with quick steps. One turned at his approach and he swung the blade, switching to the flat rather than the edge when Div yelled, Costume!
The blade caught the creature full on in the face and the force Dart put behind the blow sent it staggering backwards. He jerked his arm backwards, intent on catching the other with the same trick but it hissed and ducked, causing the blade to sweep over its head. It came at it him with a snarl and he braced his feet, blocking its lunge and claws with his left arm. Bone rang on metal and he snarled mildly as he shoved it backwards and brought his sword around for a blow. He struck with the pommel of his sword and the creature collapsed, eyes rolling up in the back of its head.
A shrill scream made him spin to find the other creature going after the brunette again, Willow standing helplessly in front of her with an anguished expression on her face. He dove forward and swept out at the creature's legs with his sword, hoping it would catch. The flat of the blade nicked an ankle and it stumbled, giving him enough time to come upon it and slam his fist against the back of its skull with the force necessary to knock it unconscious. It collapsed and he scowled at it before sheathing his blade and looking up at Willow and the shivering brunette who was gazing at him in awe.
"Are you alright?" he asked, looking to both of them. To Div he said, Keep sharp. Somehow I don't think that just the unnatural things are going to be out tonight.
Well that's lovely.
"I'm fine," breathed Willow. Then she turned to the brunette and said, "Are you okay?"
"I…I…" began the brunette then she stopped. Her eyes rolled up in her head and she would have hit the ground hard if Dart hadn't stepped forward and caught her. He lifted her so she was leaning against him then looked at Willow, asking, "Is there somewhere near here where we can go? What with all these people being controlled by other forces, it's not safe for us to be outside."
She nodded and looked around, saying, "There's…there's a teacher that lives nearby. We can go there."
"Lead the way," he said as he hefted the limp girl into his arms. The redhead set off down what he supposed was a road and he followed, studying the strange things around him and wondering just how different this world was from his own.
Giles was thoroughly confused. Willow, Buffy, and Xander were at his house but the only one that was really there was Willow. Buffy – unconscious once more from a sharp blow from a certain gauntleted hand – thought she was an 17th century noblewoman and Xander…he was some fellow from a mystical world called Dart. How they'd come to be like this he didn't know but something seemed familiar. He just couldn't place it.
He looked over to where Willow was staring down at an open book, her fingers slipping through the pages every time she tried to turn one. The blonde man at the window would occasionally turn and flip the page for her before returning to the window. When he did it this time, his leather-clad hand fell to the hilt of his sword and he asked, "You wouldn't happen to know a dark-haired man whose heading in this general direction, would you?"
"Be more specific," said Giles.
"Dark hair. Dark clothes. Keeping to the shadows pretty well and glancing about like he's looking for something."
Giles scowled and Willow offered, "It might be Angel."
" 'Angel?' " Repeated Dart. He stared out at the shadow creeping man and Div noted, Natural creature. Rather like those you fought off of the other girl. Yet…not.
"He's a vampire," explained Giles, taking off his glasses and wiping them on his shirt. Dart frowned at that, remembering that Willow had mentioned vampires being evil when she'd tried to explain things to him on their way to this man's home.
"I thought you killed vampires."
Willow piped up then before the older man could respond. "Angel's different. He has a soul."
Dart arched a blonde eyebrow then looked at Giles, asking, "Do we allow him in?"
"No," replied Giles before he opened the door and leaned against the frame, waiting for the ensouled vampire to make his approach. Angel did so after a few moments, slouching up out of the dark.
"Spike's out," he said as he came near, not glancing at Dart where he stood behind Giles, hand still on his sword. "He's taking advantage of the chaos tonight and is out looking for Buffy. I couldn't find her and I figured you…"
"She's here," said Giles, interrupting. The vampire breathed a sigh of relief then blinked as the Watcher continued, "Though you're not welcome to come in and see her."
Angel nodded then and said, "Understandable. I'll see if I can find anything out about what's going on. If I figure out something, I'll come back." With that he slipped into the shadows and was gone, though Dart could pick him out like he wasn't hiding at all. It was one of the good things about having Div in his head – he could see things and notice things he really shouldn't be able to.
"Two sets of eyes out there are better than one," said Dart as Giles started to walk towards the small kitchen. That made the older man stop and he continued, "There is nothing we can accomplish by sitting here."
Giles frowned at him then sighed and said, "I can't very well tell you not too. But…be careful. It isn't simply your life in danger here."
Dart knew the man was talking about Xander, the youth whose body he was currently residing in. He nodded and said, "I will be careful." With that he was out the door and gone, slipping into the dark far easier than Angel had gone. Giles stared after him then asked, "Willow…tell me again just what happened today…"
"Dart," replied the young man, not glancing over his shoulder from where he crouched. He was keeping an eye on a blonde vampire and his group of followers, Div grumbling about boredom as he kept his senses about the area making sure they weren't found. That was also the reason the vampire named Angel coming up behind him hadn't surprised him.
The vampire seemed thrown off balance by the silence coming from him so he turned and frowned at him, leaving Div to keep an eye on the vampires.
"Was there something you wanted?" he asked.
"I found something," explained Angel. "Ran into Cordelia – one of your…their classmates. She gave me the address to the place where they got their costumes. She managed to be one of the lucky one's that didn't shop there."
Dart nodded and rose, deciding to leave the vampires behind. Figuring out just what was going on was more important…plus Div was getting antsy and he needed to move because his feelings were leeching over like they tended to do when they became intense.
"Is she safe?"
"Cordelia?" said Angel, obviously wondering why a stranger would care. He then nodded and replied, "Yes, she's safely at home now."
"Good," said Dart. He then strode past the vampire, heading away from the small cliff in the park where he'd watched the vampires and towards the road. "Where is this place?"
Angel followed him and pulled out what appeared to be a rough map of the town with a street and a building circled. Dart took it when it was offered and studied it for a moment, asking Div, Think we can find this place on our own?
We've done well enough on our own, he replied. Even in this place we will find things well enough on our own. Though…I wouldn't mind dragging the vampire with us and dropping him.
He's pretty much an ally, Div.
Ally to them. Certainly not to us. Nor to the boy you're inhabiting as I can smell the contempt coming off of him.
Dart wasn't even going to ask how Div could smell in the state he was in. He didn't need the headache that would no doubt follow such a question.
"I'll go on my own," said Dart, folding the map and tucking it into his belt. He then looked at Angel and added, "You should go back and watch that house. Make sure nothing happens to them."
The vampire started to say something then just nodded and set off into the night at a quick clip. Dart stared after him, well aware that Div had been seeping part of his presence into him and his eyes had started to glow red, then he sighed and asked, "Ready?"
I have been prepared to destroy something since we arrived here.
Dart snorted then looked down as a sickly, dark violet glow mixed with green shone from underneath the neck of his chest armor. Then the glow encompassed him and he was moving forward at a run before it had faded. Heavy, silver-gray armor covered his body but didn't slow him nor impede his movements as he rushed back towards that cliff. He leapt as he came to it and six wings, translucent and powerful, came open behind him, sending him skyward. The vampires scattered as he swept overhead and he made sure to circle back and clip the blonde one that was obviously the leader with his sword, rending a deep gash in his neck.
Then he was in the sky, high above the unfamiliar town he'd ended up in, and felt Div's presence flicker along the edge of his mind.
I'm starting to sense a pattern, growled Div, obviously wanting to shred something with claws he no longer possessed. I believe I can sense where we need to go without you consulting that crude map.
Where? Asked Dart, adjusting the broad wings set into the armor so they swooped down towards the town.
Give me a moment…
He waited then dove downward when Div cried, There! Dart saw through the other's eyes for a moment and saw a building some distance away from them glowing a sickly green, thin strands of the same color stretching out from it all over town…and one even to him. No…there were two attached to him and the one that went to his chest was brighter than the other.
Somehow that wasn't surprising with Div being what he was.
The vision faded then and he was seeing normally again but he knew just what building he needed to go to. He swept down towards it, his speed increasing until he became a silver blur sweeping across the sky, likely going unnoticed by those below since most were probably as possessed as the youth Xander. The building came up swiftly at him and he shifted, wings flaring behind him, coming to a hover for a moment. Then he dropped, the claws that tipped the boots of the armor digging into the roof of the building, and unsheathed his sword, lifting it with the blade pointing down at the roof. Div channeled power into the blade and Dart waited until the metal glowed bright blue before he thrust it downward as far as he could. The roof split because of the power charged into the blade and he dropped down into a back room, taking in a statue sitting on a small pedestal.
Blue eyes darted around the room and found a man curled up against a wall, his breath coming in harsh gasps and his entire body shaking in fits. He was dark-haired and looked about the same age as Giles though his hair was streaked heavily with white.
He's the caster, not the source, explained Div with a growl. Something…that statue. That's it. Smash it. Smash it and break this fool's magic!
Dart frowned and shifted towards the man, who flinched and pushed himself back against the wall he leaned against. He shook his head and said, "I'm not going to harm you. Not even if you're the one that cast the spell that did this."
The man lifted his eyes to stare at him and gasped.
"Y-you," he breathed, "y-you're the one that c-caused this."
You shouldn't have dealt with forces far beyond the comprehension of a human! Shouted Div in a rage. His rage spilled over to Dart and he growled, tightening his grip on his sword as his eyes flared red again. Then he looked down at the man before lifting his other arm, which ended in a cannon, and pointed it at the bust.
"No more," he growled. "This ends."
The end of the cannon began to glow and he absently took note of the sound of bells from behind him. But he ignored it, pouring power into the cannon until it glowed incandescent white with blue along the edges, the man scrambling away in terror.
Div roared and Dart released the energy the cannon had gathered, the armor absorbing whatever recoil there was. The blast encompassed the statue and destroyed it, leaving nothing to give a hint that it had ever been there. It also completely demolished the back of the building and took out a collection of trees before it dissipated.
Giles burst into the back room in time to see a bright flash of sickly violet light then saw Xander on his knees, a blonde wig on the ground next to him. The youth grunted and struggled upright, his hand clenched around a small pouch that hung from his neck. He turned slowly and smiled at Giles, saying, "Hey, G-man. Looks like everything's a-okay again."
Three days after Halloween, Xander was sitting on the floor at the back of the library. He was, for once, dressed in fairly normal clothes – baggy khaki pants with a white t-shirt covered by a brown and green striped shirt – which surprised everyone that knew him. They were all used to his loud Hawaiian shirts – all of which he'd thrown out the day after Halloween.
Sighing, he reached to the neck of his shirt and tugged something out from under it. He pulled up the pouch from the costume and opened it, carefully allowing the dark bauble to roll out into his hand. Holding it up so a shaft of light pierced it, he stared at the serpentine eye that could be seen within in green and amber.
He then brought it back down and dropped his head to rest his forehead against his knee. "We," he said slowly in a low voice, "have a problem."
A snort sounded in his head and Div grumbled, That, whelp, is fairly evident.
To those that don't recognize Xander's costume, it's the main character – Dart Feld – from the Playstation RPG The Legend of Dragoon. And Div is the Divine Dragon, who becomes a Dragoon Spirit after you fight him. Not a spoiler for those who haven't played the game.