Title: New Camelot: Diamonds & Rubies
Summary: The Diamond in the Rough encounters the Blood Red Ruby over the Mouth of Hell on All Hallows Eve. Halloween remake, only Buffy's costume is a bit more than just a merchant's daughter, and Xander dresses to match.
Disclaimer: This is yet another Halloween Remake, mostly because I've finally gotten caught up in the fad and I have really just gotten fed up with only reading ALL these different stories where *Xander* gets thousands of different costumes, and Buffy and Willow are both stuck, in each and every one, with the *same* costume, no matter what. Oh, and Joss Whedon came up with BtVS while Carl Ellsworth wrote the original Halloween Episode. Of which nothing but the event, the characters, and the universe is taken. From the moment they go in the shop (the beginning of the story) I'm making it all up. As original and non-script copied as I can manage and still be a remake.
Author's Notes: There's a bit more to this than just Buffy wears a different costume with Xander. Because she actually does wear the same costume, just with one piece of jewelry, it's changed. Morgana, IE Morgaine Le Fay, and King Arthur are herein based upon the culmination of Fictional literatures I have been exposed to. Including Wandererverse and many TV movies. So I claim no /one/ source for that part of this fic. And I like Willow, I really, really do. But sacrifices have to be made sometimes.
Diamonds & Rubies
"So, how much money have we got?" Xander asked as the three friends walked into the costume shop. The closest costume shop to the school after they got out for the day, the day the Troll-like Principal had hustled all three of them into babysitting a bunch of Trick-or-Treaters on Halloween night.
"Can I ask why you wanna know?" Buffy asked back to her friend, a teasing smile, which he could not see, on her face.
"Hey, excuse me for still being caught up in the Halloween Spirit. The Great Pumpkin, free candy, and girls in skimpy costumes . . . to me Halloween is one of the greatest holidays ever invented! And I just want a really great costume, and if I know our budget, then I won't be getting my hopes up if I see something really cool and it's too much," Xander excused himself.
"I keep hearing plural words like 'we' and 'our'," Willow spoke up as they avoided a bunch of kids, which they would probably be seeing tomorrow night, leaving the store with their purchases.
Xander suddenly blushed and scratched the back of his head in obvious embarrassment. "Uh, well, I figured if we pooled all our resources, then we could, you know, like . . ."
"I get it Xand," Willow grinned and pulled her friend off the hook.
"Good, cause I was also kinda hoping we could pool resources, not that I'm broke or anything, but . . . " Buffy sheepishly added.
"Am I the only one that gets an allowance?" Willow demanded as they slowly browsed the aisles.
"Uh, actually Wills, you're just the one that doesn't spend it as soon as you get it," Xander answered her, still blushing, Buffy easily matching him.
"Oh," Willow mumbled. Then she turned on her friends and snapped, "Come on guys! We were supposed to come here with some ideas of what we were going to get before we even came here."
"I thought we were here to get ideas and buy the first thing we liked?" Buffy asked.
"Well, to be honest, I did have sort of an idea before. My Uncle Rory gave me a couple of soldier clothes, says belonged to my grandfather in World War 2, and I was thinking of buying just a toy gun to go with it," Xander told them.
"See Buffy, Xander thinks ahead," Willow told her friend.
"But now that I'm here and see all these other cool costumes, I'm going to get something else. Better than a lame soldier anyway," Xander concluded.
Buffy smirked as Willow deflated and whispered back to the redhead, "See Willow, Xander's here to get ideas and buy the first thing he likes." She just scowled back at the Slayer before walking off.
"Meet you back here in ten?" Xander asked, obviously already itching to go browse for something to wear on Halloween night.
"Yeah, go, be merry. I'll see if I can find anything cheap enough at the front of the shop," Buffy smiled and the two walked off.
About fifteen minutes later, the gang all met back near the counter, Willow looking self-satisfied and the other two looking even more forlorn than before.
"So what'd you find Xan?" Buffy asked, idly toying with some fake fingers and eyeballs on the counter.
"Oh, I found that toy gun that would go with my soldier fatigues real well, but I'm just bored with that whole idea and sadly, much to my deflated male ego's disheartenment, I haven't found anything else that I could either afford, nor would even consider wearing. Unless I was paid fifty bucks to do so," he answered.
The girls just stared at him until Buffy turned to face Willow and forced her face back into a grin and asked, "So what'd your research and preparation get you Will?"
Grinning brightly, Willow held up a white sheet folded up in plastic, through which could clearly be seen, written in black, the word "Boo!". "I figured you can never go wrong with the classics. A ghost costume."
Both Xander and Buffy just stared at her for a full second before Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed. "Wills, you're missing the whole point of Halloween!" she exclaimed to her friend. "The whole dressing up is so you can go as something that is not you! So not you is you, you get it?"
Xander interceded, "I don't get what you said, but I do know the whole point of Halloween is to dress up as something really cool, be them for a night, and get free candy and Twinkies."
Buffy rolled her eyes again and was about to continue lecturing Willow, when out of the corner of her eye, she saw a costume near the back of the shop.
"Xander, you do know that nobody actually hands out Twinkies, don't you?" Willow asked him.
"And how many times have you ruined my own disillusionments by telling me that Wills? Huh? How many times?" Xander snapped back at her.
She just smirked and answered, "Every Halloween ever since Twinkies became your favorite food."
Xander blinked and did a double take before a look of realization crossed his face and he nodded, "Oh yeah. Right. Well, it doesn't really matter. So what'd you get Buffy?" When he turned to ask her, but he and Willow did their own double takes when they realized that Buffy was no longer there. Panicking for half a moment, they both searched the entire store with their eyes, until half a moment later, the saw her walking towards the back of the store.
"Buff?" Xander asked as they caught up with their friend.
"Are you all right?" Willow asked.
"I'm sorry," Buffy whispered back at them, continuing to walk on until she came to a crimson red noble-woman's dress with gold and white ruffles around the collars, "But this dress . . . this costume . . . it's . . . it's . . ."
"Perfect, I know!" a new voice interrupted, causing Slayer and Slayerettes to jump slightly. A man suddenly appeared from behind the dress, or more likely from the door that was behind the dress. He was in his late thirties, early forties, with dark, softly graying hair, and tight, drawn skin. He was at least half a foot taller than Xander, and dressed simply. He also, from the three words he had spoken, had an English accent.
"Here, let me help you with that," he said as he quickly and deftly took the dress off the full-body rack and moved Buffy over to a mirror to hold the dress up in front of her.
"Oh, but, I, no, I mean, I can't . . ." Buffy stopped and gathered her wits for a moment and told the man, "There's no way I could possibly afford this . . ." she trailed off when she saw herself in the mirror.
"My," the man said as all of them took in the image provided of Buffy in the dress, "meet the hidden princess."
"No, I'm sorry, there's just no way I could afford this," Buffy denied once again.
"My dear, my name is Ethan Rayne, and I just happen to be the owner of this store," he informed them all. "Now I'm sure we can find exactly the right price and work something out, because it is obvious my dear, even if it is not so much to you, that this dress was made for you."
Buffy stared up at him for a second and then finally seemed to dramatically sigh and fingered the dress for a few more seconds. Then she pouted a little, even Xander was fooled, and whimpered in a voice that would make any man do anything to keep her from spilling over into tears, "Well, Mr. Rayne, I'm afraid I only can really afford twelve dollars. I was thinking of just getting some prop and wearing some kind of home made outfit."
"Nonsense," Ethan scoffed and quickly lead all of the teens to the front counter, "I'll have you know that this dress is only ten dollars. I inherited it from a local theater department that were getting rid of old costumes, and then just patched it up a little. Really hardly worth anything. And, as a bonus," he said as he slid behind the counter and held the dress up onto it, "I'll push the dress down to five dollars and throw in this dark haired wig, meant to go with the dress, as well as these little trinkets, rings and jewelry," he then pulled out four plastic rings, each with a large jewel on it, one red, one yellow, one diamond white, and another ring that was actually solid black, "And all of it for the original ten dollar price."
"Well . . ." Buffy's voice wavered.
Then something else in the display case beneath the counter caught her eye. "Ooo, what's that?" she pointed at a magnificent, jeweled gold necklace in a display box.
"What?" Ethan asked, confused, then looked down and looked a little shocked for a second there.
"Oh, um, the, uh, the figurines? The bracelets? I got those from E-Bay, supposed to be props for a children's television show . . ." Ethan tried to distract her away from the necklace. No way in /hell/ was he letting /her/ be brought back tonight.
"No, that necklace there? How much to put it with the rest of this?" she asked.
"N-n-now I'm afraid that is a slightly different matter. Th-that necklace is somewhat of a family heirloom, and made from real gold. While I couldn't exactly sell it to a museum . . . or even a pawn shop," Ethan raged for a moment, "I can't even begin to mark down it's price."
"How much?" Buffy asked again, meeting Ethan's glare.
Staring at her for a moment, Ethan finally barked out, "Twenty-five dollars."
"Cool, ring it up," Buffy smiled and pulled out her purse.
"What? But, but . . ."
"But what?" she asked in a haughty voice. Smiling, and knowing exactly where this was going, both of her friends backed up and started looking for something Xander to get.
"My dear," Ethan said, finally getting his head on straight, "you said you only had twelve dollars to your name."
"That was before I saw you had one of those," she pointed at the credit card machine right next to the cash register. "Now, if you try to swindle me, after having told me what you were going to sell all this for, then I'm going right to the authorities, and while they may shuffle around a murder, stores that swindle High School girls is a completely different matter. Now. Ring it up."
He just stared, mouth gaping like a fish for a minute, until something seemed to click in his mind and he smirked and said, as he started ringing up the aforementioned and agreed upon price, "You are very good young miss. Very good indeed."
"I've come across hustlers before," was all she said. Then she reminded him quickly, "Don't forget the necklace."
Grimacing and growling to himself about how he couldn't let this happen, Ethan retrieved the necklace and added it with the dress and the rings and the wig, coming to about thirty-five dollars, which Buffy actually paid cash for instead of with a credit card. Wrapping it all up for her, her eyes on him like a hawk when he placed the necklace into a box, preventing him from trying a switch, Ethan grinned when she finally left with her purchases and went back out onto the floor to see if he could get any other interesting creatures and people out there for Halloween night.
Five seconds later, he came across the tall, dark haired boy, friend of the Slayer that had just swindled him out of one of the most powerful magical talismans in the world.
"Hello young man, is there anything I can actually help you with? You seem a bit lost," he observed in his 'salesman' voice.
"Well, to be honest, I am," Xander admitted. "I'm actually hoping you've got something in medieval armor. Sort of a Knight in shining armor that usually sweeps lonely castle maidens off their feet and rescues them from dragons and all that."
Ethan's smirk was truly evil, but Xander, looking at the pictures on the various packaged womens costumes, including Sexy Nurse, Sexy Witch, Sexy French Maid, Sexy Cave Girl, and Sexy Harem Girl, never noticed.
"Are you sure about this? I mean, unlike Buffy who only has like fifty or so bucks, I really, really don't have much money," Xander said as Ethan showed him one costume which hadn't been on display, but rather in the back room.
"The only reason it wasn't next to the dress young man is because I haven't finished it. I still need the weapons, the accessories, however the main body of the costume is now finished. I was working on the last touches when I saw your friend admiring the dress," Ethan explained.
"Oh, well, OK, how much is it?" Xander hesitantly asked.
"Find me some authentic accessories and it's yours," Ethan said, entirely serious.
"You're kidding!" Xander exclaimed. "This is some kind of joke? Right?"
"No my lad, I'm entirely serious. Get me a real sword, not a plastic one, or those cheep steel models on Television, but a /real/ sword, a mace, and a crossbow, and some tin metal that I can shape into a shield, and by tomorrow night you'll be . . . King Arthur," the costume shop owner said with relish.
Xander's eyes lit up as he suddenly understood, and realized that he could actually get everything to make this costume his for Halloween night. After all, Giles had swords and crossbows all over the cage in the school, and chances were good that he could find a mace, which he /did/ know what that was, in there as well.
"Mister . . ." Xander started to say.
"Oh please, call me Ethan," he interrupted.
Xander smiled and nodded and held out his hand, "Ethan, you've got yourself a deal." Ethan grinned savagely and shook the young lad's hand. Time to get to work.
The next afternoon, Buffy and Willow were up in the former's room, after the Slayer had /finally/ convinced the Hacker to forgo her ghost costume and try out something just a little bit more daring.
Willow was in the bathroom across from Buffy's room putting on the clothes Buffy had picked from her 'grown out of' pile of clothes in her closet, and Buffy had just placed the expensive necklace around her neck, completing the costume that she was a rich noblewoman from medieval times. The dark haired wig didn't really go with any of her earrings that she had, so she forwent that option of jewelry, but she did put on the four rings she had gotten with the costume, as well as one of her favorite personal rings, a mood ring, that had actual gold, not much but some, in the ring, which she'd had ever since she was a little girl.
Between the rings with the red gem and the yellow gem, it just seemed to match, and created a kind of cool rainbow effect. On her other hand she had the black ring on her index finger and the fake diamond ring on her ring finger. It seemed to go there for some reason.
The rest of her costume did indeed seem to be made just for her. Although it was a little tight in the bodice, and somehow, not that she was complaining, increased her bust and thus was rather dangerously low-cut, the rest of it draped around her and clung in all the right places. It made Buffy stand a little taller and raise her head a little bit more than usual. She felt like she was actual nobility in this dress with these jewels.
Especially with the necklace settled between her bosom. That in itself made the transition from lower house nobility, like an Earl or a Baron, which she had read about in History class, to much higher, like a Duchess or even a Queen. Definitely high-rank material.
"So how does everything fit?" Buffy called out to Willow, still admiring herself in her costume.
"Uh, a little tight," came Willow's muffled reply.
Fortunately, the two were the only ones in the house at the moment, Buffy's mother being out of town for work-related reasons. At least that was the excuse given to Buffy.
"So," Buffy decided to change the subject off of the outfit she had /barely/ convinced Willow to wear instead of her ghost costume, "Do you think Angel will like my costume?"
She heard the bathroom door open and then close and the soft steps of heels on the carpet. "Oh yeah Buffy. Everyone is going to love it, I just know it," Willow answered enthusiastically.
Buffy finally turned away from her reflection and turned to see a creation of Aphrodite standing before her. Or maybe Eros.
Willow's red hair, which they had spent almost an hour on in pinning it up into this sort of loose, yet sexy French braid, was still in place and highlighted her face, drawing more attention to it, rather than less like her usual flat style did. It was the clothing, and what little it covered that caught and held the Slayer's attention though.
If she wasn't firmly cemented in her heterosexuality beliefs, she half believed she would jump the timid redhead right then and there.
Wearing a tight, red velvetine top that, while long sleeved, was ultra tight and clung to every curve and angle of her arms and shoulders. It had a steep v-neck, which like Buffy's dress, both enhanced and showed off the increased bust line, and then went even further by conforming to every curve above her abdomen. Because her abdomen had been left entirely bare, front and back, showing off her thin and muscular waist, and enhancing the overall package even more.
Set low on her hips, well below her navel, was the second shortest skirt Buffy had ever owned. On Buffy it went to about three inches above her knees. On the slightly taller redhead, it came barely five inches below her waist and at least half a foot of thigh between the hem and her knees, which below them sported a pair of knee-high leather boots ending in heels, completing the sexified Willow image.
Openly staring, her mouth hanging open in a combination of shock, jealousy, and pure hormonal lust that had nothing to do with gender, Buffy finally shook herself out of her funk and whispered in awe, "Uh, wow!"
For whatever reason, this statement had the exact opposite of reassuring Willow and the redhead suddenly dove forward for the bed, where her opened ghost costume lay. She had opened it with every intention of putting it on when Xander got here, but Buffy had talked her around to this getup by then.
"No! Willow, no! I am not going to let you let this opportunity slip you by," the Slayer physically stopped the redhead.
"Buffy, no, this-this just isn't me. I can't do this!" she protested.
"Exactly," Buffy said, dragging her away from the bed to the mirror so they both could look at the hotness that is Willow Rosenberg. "Willow, Halloween is all about /not/ being /you *is*/ you! Halloween is where, for one night, you get to be more than just yourself. You get to be what you /want/ to be. Maybe even what you wish you could be. This." Buffy emphasized the image in the mirror, "This is what I know you want to be. You /are/ an attractive young woman. And if you go down and out there in this outfit, I guarantee you, no, better, I promise you that not only will Xander notice you, and in the way you dream he would, but so will a lot of other guys. And just imagine the look on Cordelia's face when you look hotter than her."
Willow's face suddenly blanched and became even paler while a look of pure panic crossed her face.
"Yeah, she'll be pissed," Buffy interpreted the look, "but from jealousy. Wills, I promise you. You'll get good attention. And Xander and I will both be with you. You have nothing to worry about."
Buffy brightened and chirped, "Oh! One more thing," she began digging around her vanity drawers until she came out with a small black ribbon with a clasp on the ends. "Don't worry, it's exactly the thing needed to complete the look," she said as she fitted the black choker gently around Willow's neck until it was securely, but not too tightly in place. Taking in the image, Buffy almost let out a wolf whistle, "Good thing tonight's going to be quiet, otherwise you'd make for some tempting bait for the vamps."
Willow turned and gave her friend a dead look, causing the blonde to grimace.
"Sorry. No more talk of vamp bait, promise," just then the doorbell rang, "Oh. That'll be Xander. I'll go on down and let him in, then you come down and we can wow him with our collective hotness. Poor boy, we'll probably break him. Oh well, we'll just have to both give him a kiss and see if that'll fix him."
Willow glared at the Slayer and remarked as the royally dressed woman walked out of the room, "You are evil Buffy. Pure evil."
"I know," was the only bright reply as she disappeared downstairs.
Xander managed to get the requested weapons out of the locker at school, luckily without Giles noticing because he was certain the G-man wasn't going to willingly let the young man borrow his Slaying tools just for a Halloween costume.
Ethan had been ecstatic when he'd seen the weapons and then sent Xander out to the front, where hardly anyone was anymore, while he "packaged" the items for the Slayerette.
Buffy and Willow had left with him when he'd gone to get the weapons earlier, both of them going on home while he made a small detour to the Library before heading right back to the costume shop. After his brand new, and absolutely free, so to speak, King Arthur costume was wrapped up and with some written instructions on how to put the armor on, Xander finally went home himself.
The next afternoon, thankfully Halloween came on a Saturday this year, he spent almost an hour getting ready. He needed it too as it took him almost twenty minutes to figure out what went where. Once the armor was on, he set about adjusting the cloth pieces, a shirt with a gold dragon emblem on a red tunic, cinched by the large brown leather belt that was actually sturdy enough to hold the sword on his left side and the mace, handle latched to the belt through a loop, on his right side. There were a lot of pieces to the armor, but his favorite part was the shield, which had been some spare aluminum sheet metal he'd found lying around the garage. Fortunately it had already been cut into a roughly round shape, and by the time Ethan was done with it, it was the perfect shield, smoothly rounded, even caved in a little so it was like a real shield. He'd even spray-painted the same dragon emblem on it.
The shield, with a personal touch of Xander's, was now strapped to his back, making sure the dragon was right side up before he left, weapons in place, and everything as it should be, the young "King Arthur" left for Buffy's house, not wanting to be late in picking the girls up, and all without looking in the mirror first.
So when Buffy answered the door, he was surprised that he wasn't the only one staring.
Of course, he couldn't just stand there staring, so he quickly thought of something to say and said it without considering other options. "Lady Buffy, Duchess, no, make that Queen of Bufftopia. Thou art more beautiful than my fair Lady Guinevere, and more radiant than Juliet. Did I mention how hot you look in that dress?"
Buffy smiled and couldn't stop herself from giggling, or blushing, at Xander's comments. Dipping in a 'Lady's' bow, holding her skirts, she replied in kind, "Thank you sir Knight. And might I also compliment you on the roguish handsomeness thou art yourself. In American, I'm not the only awe-worthy one here Xan," she grinned cheekily.
Xander grinned back and looked down at himself. "You really think so? I managed to make my own deal with that costume shop guy and he practically let me have this. I even got real weapons to go with it. So in case you happen to need a sword tonight . . ."
"It's supposed to be quiet tonight Xan, Giles said so," Buffy interrupted him.
"Yeah, but it never hurts to be prepared," he replied. "So, we ready to go?"
"Oh yeah!" she exclaimed, turning her attention to the top of the stairs. "Willow should be ready to go by now. I think you're really going to like . . ." Buffy trailed off as she saw Willow appear at the top of the stairs, her entire body hidden by the white sheet of her ghost costume. You couldn't even tell she was wearing high heeled boots until you heard her foot steps. " . . . her Boo . . ." Buffy finished miserably.
"Hey there Casper, my best friendly ghost," Xander greeted cheerfully and waved. "Buff's right, love the Boo. Ready to go?"
"Yep, all ready, let's get going Buffy," Willow answered, sounding cheerful.
But Buffy knew better, even as she glared in heavy annoyance at her best friend's white-covered head. Oh well, she finally sighed as they headed out and she locked the door behind them. There was always next year. And New Years. Maybe should could somehow get these two under the mistletoe.
An hour later, everyone was getting ready to leave the High School, leading their numerous groups of costumed goblins, demons, devils, occasional cowboys, and maybe one or two angels and fairies, but they were rare and only one or two to maybe every other group, and certainly not all of them.
Snyder had warned Buffy off about "influencing" the children under her charge, but she ignored him as soon as he turned off to shout at Larry, dressed as a Vietnam soldier. She knew that because they didn't have fatigues and automatic pistols and rifles in World War 2.
"So, everybody gonna have fun and get lots of treats?" she asked her pack of rugrats.
"Yeah!" came the enthusiastic reply. Smiling she nodded back at them and went over to see how Xander and Willow were doing.
Xander, in full armor, stood before his group exactly like a King inspecting his Knights before battle. "All right Sirs, and Lady," he added to the lone fairy in his group, "We're about to go into the breech. Some of us may not make it back . . . with all our limbs. But this I promise you! We /will/ come back with candy. Oh yes. But in order to increase our victory and the spoils of that victory, we must employ cunning strategies my loyal Knights. Tears are key. Especially when visiting an old lady's house. You might try the old 'You missed me' routine, but that's risky. All right, we all understand our crusade?"
All of the young children nodded woodenly, smiling brightly.
"Let's march on then," Xander tried to draw his sword, but finally settled on resting his hand on the hilt before he made himself look like more of a fool.
Willow, Buffy noticed, had the group that was actually all boys and had the most monsters, all of them, out of all the groups. Suddenly Buffy was actually glad her friend had donned the sheet. She was sure that the shy redhead, even dressed like a tart, would be nothing but a pop-tart to the pre-teen boys.
Shortly, Snyder announced that it was time to go trick-or-treating and all of the teens and children quickly filed out from the High School, heading for the residential areas.
Buffy made sure to keep her group close to Xander and Willow's groups, some unconscious instinct making her want to keep an eye on them. Particularly Xander, though she couldn't be certain why.
It was getting close to sunset and all of the kids were having fun. Even some of the teens were enjoying themselves. Buffy, Xander and Willow certainly were. The candy was mostly good stuff, although some people gave the kids things like toothbrushes and pencils. After the first couple of such door prizes, everyone had been warned to avoid those houses.
The sun had set at 5:30, and the kids were due back at the school by 6:00, so everyone had started to head back by nightfall. And that's when it happened.
Buffy had been guiding her group across the street, just one block from the school. Willow, only a few houses back from Buffy, had taken her group to one last house before heading back themselves, while Xander had been one whole street over, leading his group over to join Buffy's.
Then, without any outward sign of the magic, the demon and devil masks became real and various chaos demons rose from Hell to possess the people of the living world. At the same time, an unseen, undetectable chaos portal opened in the sky, directly over and parallel to the Hellmouth, and numerous spirits of personality and souls poured out from there and possessed all the other people that had bought costumes from Ethan's.
And the only person to have bought a ghost costume from the same shop, fell down, dead, and then rose from her body, dressed only in the clothing she had on beneath the white sheet, now a true and haunting ghost.
Cowboys became born and raised farmhands that knew as much about cattle as anyone alive. Vampires were possessed with a Blood demon without dying. Witches and Hags suddenly had powers they knew how to control, yet wouldn't in any other case. Devil ladies became Succubi, werewolves and other beasts became massive demon dogs and horrible, uncontrollable were-creatures, it was nearly endless as only the people that had bought from the only other costume shop in town, "Party Town" in the mall, were the only ones unaffected, except of course for the even fewer people not dressed in costume for Halloween.
Arthur shook his head, trying to dispel the vertigo that had captured him. Once it had passed, he took only a quick look around to decide that he wasn't in Camelot anymore, and he was most certainly in a hostile situation.
At least it wasn't as bad as where he'd been before, since his last memory was of killing, and being killed by his only son, Mordred, born of his half-sister Morgana. But while not as bad, it was certainly bad enough as he took notice of all the child-demons, not a metaphor at the moment, and little devils running around and generally causing havoc and chaos.
"All right," he muttered in his native Celtic, drawing his sword and swinging the shield, the /real/ shield, on his back around and onto his left arm, wielding the sword with his right hand. "Time to get serious. This may not be my home land, these may not be my people, but by God and the Goddess, I will not stand idly by and let innocents be harmed this night! EXCALIBUR! COME TO ME!"
With that mighty roar of a shout, Arthur, Once and Future King, raised his blade to the heavens, and as always when he summoned the blade that was his birthright, a powerful flash of lightning tore the sky asunder, striking the blade, leaving the man.
Across a continent, across an ocean, and then across land and sea, in a small, rarely visited pond in the nondescript, undeveloped countryside of England, the Island Country of Britain, a light began to glow as magic untouched and untapped for centuries was awakened to it's calling.
The Sword was needed once more.
The glow became a burst of energy as an arm, holding a magnificent blade, some said to be the Second Blade ever made, forged by the gods themselves, emerged from the center of the pond. It cocked back and then with a mighty effort, and with tremendous, inhuman strength, the slender arm threw the weapon Excalibur West, towards its one and true master.
It seemed to take a lot longer than he was used to, even when he had been separated from Excalibur once by hundreds of miles. But soon, and considering the distance it had to cover logistically, much faster than science could ever explain, the simple sword, meant for killing demons and vampires, had been replaced with the once Sword in the Stone, Excalibur.
Arthur grinned as he held his familiar ally once again. The tell-tale arcs of white magical energy arched around the hilt and up his forearm, letting him, and anyone nearby know that the Sword had chosen him as it's bearer.
"Let's get to work old friend," he whispered, before suddenly slamming the flat of the Sword into the side of the head of a demon-child that had been running up to attack him. Now that the magical weapon was in his possession once more, the energies of magic and life were now familiar to him once again. He smelt the taint of dark chaos energy in the air, and could taste how the children's souls and bodies were being converted and possessed by the demons they were for the moment.
His, and theirs, best hope lie in him reaching the center of this spell of dark magic and stopping it before dawn, lest it become permanent.
Setting off into the night, following his senses and trusting Excalibur to lead him, King Arthur began to track down the source of this chaos.
The last thing she remembered . . . was confusion. It was strange, because she had rather conflicting "last memories". Her last living memories was when Mauve betrayed her and tried to kill her. But she also remembered living on to see Arthur fall, the man she hated, the man she loved, her stinking half-brother, and her first and only lover. And then years beyond that, constantly dueling with Merlin until they finally somehow managed to kill each other with a death curse. And she remembered the Ghost Roads.
And now she was here. On this street in . . . Sunnydale, California, of the United States of America in the year 1997 A.D. Magic was such a wonderful thing. So easy to gather information from the Earth, the Air, the Sea, and even people's minds.
But that still didn't explain why she . . .
Ah . . . /there/ it is. Chaos. No other thing could pull a condemned spirit from the Ghost Roads and give it a living body. Even if only for one night. She'd have to thank the wizard that did this for her. After she finished torturing him for bringing her here without asking her permission of course.
Morgaine Le Fey, in her silk, blood red gown, and stones of empowerment, her raven black hair falling freely down her back, stood and grinned darkly at her surroundings. The future had always been bright. Time to change that.
Several demons suddenly raced past her. Taking a closer /"look"/, she saw that they were in fact children, innocent children, possessed by demons thanks all to the chaos energy infused around the Hellmouth. Oh yes, she was familiar with Hellmouths as well.
Raising her right hand in their direction, her middle ring, a gold circlet holding a multi-colored jewel of infinite design, suddenly flashed a bit brighter, and all of the demons in the area just as suddenly stopped and looked in her direction. Even a few of the transformed fairies and other creatures halted.
Curious, she thought. Just a simple persuasion spell, even augmented with her Ring of the Mind and Heart, should not have been so powerful.
Looking down at her body, she reexamined herself. And was most surprised at what she discovered. Not her own body, but the body of a /Slayer/! What a strange and wonderful and /delightful/ coincidence!
Laughing maniacally out loud, Morgana gathered all of her new minions. She wasn't evil incarnate, so she wasn't about to let innocent children run amok, but she certainly wasn't stupid enough to let a small army of demons at her beck and call slip through her grasp either.
She was halted when a strangely familiar, but unaccented voice called out in her direction.
"Buffy?" Willow, or rather ghost-Willow, cried as she came running up to the transformed Slayer, even running through a few of the High Priestess's new minions.
Arching an eyebrow in curiosity, Morgana allowed the specter to approach her. Fashions sure had changed in 1500 years, certainly for the women if this is what the gangly creature in front of her had died in. She briefly wondered what occupation the red haired girl used to have, before she reminded herself she didn't care.
"Buffy, are you all right? What's going on? Why are there demons all around us and why are your rings and necklace glowing?" the scantily clad redhead ghost spoke without even mimicking a breath.
At the mention of her necklace, Morgana immediately looked down and saw, as though for the first time, her very own empowerment talisman. Not a fake that had been transformed by the chaos, but the /actual/ talisman itself. So that was how she really came to be here. In this body, and on All Hallows Eve no less.
"Buffy is it?" Morgana asked the specter, then snorted, her accent as flawless as though she'd always had this body. "My what a rather ridiculous name, even for a Slayer. And what happened to be your name my dear before your untimely demise? No, no, let me guess, you dressed as a ghost when the chaos magicks hit, didn't you?"
"W-well, uh, y-y-yeah," Willow stuttered, suddenly becoming afraid, and not at all liking that predatory look in Buffy's eyes. Eyes that very quickly and without warning lost all color and became solid black. Not just pupils, but her entire eyeballs.
"Doesn't really matter anymore," Morgana's voice took on the ethereal quality when she was performing high-level magics. "I need a spy, and a specter of any sort is just the sort of spy I need at the moment. Unfortunately one with soul and without the knowledge, experience, or abilities of normal ghosts is completely out of the question. I like your hair however, my dear. Reminds me of Eire, and of course you can't help but recall the Banshee when you think of Eire."
Feeling overwhelming panic, Willow turned and started to run as fast as she could away from her transformed friend. Unfortunately, it was far too late.
"Stirips fo eht Dnal, Serutaerc fo eht Aes, Stnerruc fo eht Ria dna Yks, Gninrub Drol fo eht Emalf, Reah ym Yrc!" Morgana began to cast as the ghost tried to run from her. Her rings began to glow, augmented both by her form's enhanced body and her own magical talisman of empowerment.
"Siht luos si tsol dna sdeen mrof, evig siht der deriah dlihc fo eht Elpoep eht eciov fo eht Slegna, egt ssenecreif fo Erutan, eht rewop fo eht Dlrowrednu!" Morgana smiled as she saw the magical energies of her casting reach out and fully entwine the ghost, and the ghost herself beginning to slow down and look like she was out of breath. Morgana smiled cruelly and finished her casting, sending her energies out to bind the creature she was creating to her and her alone.
"Etaerc fo reh sselmrof lioc a BANSHEE ot evres em! Morgana fo eht Fey, ruoy tnavres dna PRIESTESS!" Morgana then cut both of her palms and her cheeks with a dagger that was conveniently located in the folds of her dress and cast drops of blood from all cuts in the direction of her new Banshee.
A blinding burst of light surrounded the ghost as the wind carried Morgana's blood, which would bind the Banshee to her, into the transforming energies. The surrounding chaos and hell energies of the Hellmouth only made it that much simpler to create the Banshee from a harmless ghost in the first place.
Once the transformation was complete, a tall and imposing wraith-like figure stood where the ghost-Willow once had stood. Her hair was still red, but now reached all the way to her ankles, that is if it were to lie flat. Instead her hair moved with every slight breeze, and even seemed to move when the air was still. Her body was thinned even more than it had been, enough that she looked like she had been dead for centuries, except her skin was ice-pale, not gray with age or decomposition.
And her clothing . . . what little remained of it, looked like it /had/ been decomposing for centuries. Barely holding on scraps of gray cloth, which moved with every stray breeze as her hair, was all that covered her private parts, and then only just. Her boots were just gone, and in fact the only thing that really remained of her clothing was the black choker around her neck. Her eyes were nothing but blank, green glowing, pupil-less sockets.
"Come my Banshee, you have work to do for me," Morgana called, exerting what little will she needed to to get the mindless spirit to do as she wished.
Nodding mindlessly, the Banshee opened her mouth and the sound much like an airplane engine starting up, echoed out of the gaping, tongue-less, teeth-less hole. Then the sound became that of a jet engine and with just that whining hum filling the air, the Banshee lifted off the ground and began to fly over Sunnydale, searching, watching, looking, as her mistress commanded.
Arthur was very confused. He was a warrior, not a magician like his Teacher and Friend Merlin, or even like his sister Morgana. Fortunately he had managed to keep from killing anyone so far, but he was no closer to figuring out how to stop this crisis and keep anyone else from getting hurt or anything like that.
Not even five minutes after he'd started to track the source of the chaos magic that he got lost. Especially since the "trail" went /through/ several buildings and he could find no immediate way around them. And while not as tall as a castle's turrets, he could find no way to climb them, so he was stuck with wandering around, trying to find his way around.
It was in his wanderings that he first heard the sound. A sound he dreaded, /almost/ above any others. It was very high pitched, his human ears almost couldn't detect it, but he could still hear and feel it in his very bones. And it was getting closer.
Shifting his eyes skyward, he held Excalibur at the ready and tried to ready himself, until he saw it. Barely a blip in the night sky, a flying wraith with a mane of Irish red hair, and her mouth ever open, screaming that horribly, high-pitched sound that made his hair stand on end.
How in Heaven's name a Banshee got to wherever he was, he didn't want to guess right now, but he didn't need to be Merlin to feel Morgana's taint on the wraith's very existence.
Excalibur suddenly ignited in a white glow, surprising Arthur, leaving him off guard for just a moment. A moment that the Banshee screamed a sonic attack at him. Fortunately for the time lost King, she was new at being a Banshee and her aim was a little off, missing him by just a hair and completely obliterating the road in front of him, making a deep, but small crater in the concrete.
Arthur didn't hesitate any further and leaped back from the crater, and then leaped back again, just in time to avoid another sonic blast, one that had been a little more on target. With a back flip, he dodged one last time before jumping up and leaping off the side of a building, bringing him briefly up to the Banshee's level of height. Rather than strike her, he held the white-glowing Excalibur before him, as though to ward her off, and surprisingly it did stop her, the wraith's eyes going wide at the feeling of power in the weapon.
"Go back to your mistress," he hissed during his brief time airborne, "Tell her who is also here with her in this time. And tell her I will stop her, no matter what."
Then the King began to fall back to the ground and just in time he flipped around so he landed on the balls of his feet, and then rolled with the fall, quickly springing back to his feet, not even bruised from the fall. He glared up at the Banshee as it stared in complete shock at him, and then with an even louder wail from it, took off from the direction it had come from.
Arthur looked down at the weapon in his hand and asked, "Now what did you mean she's my friend?" he asked rhetorically.
Morgana had been heading in the general direction of the Hellmouth itself, collecting more and more transformed minions as she went along, and usually just sending her current pack to do the recruiting for her. There were a few however, apparently people like the Slayer she had possessed, who had not dressed as monsters or demons, but as something, or someone else.
And while she expected her Banshee to report back to her of any resistance or opposition to her wishes, but nevertheless she was surprised when the creature came flying back to her, wailing with a frightened and pitiful scream, and then came right up to her and buried itself in her embrace, as though seeking comfort.
It only took a moment to remember the spirit that she had transformed had been best friends with her "host" and took the situation in stride. "There, there," she cooed, coercing the wraith to look up at her, "it's all right. Now, show me what happened. You know how," she added when the Banshee gave her a confused look.
The wraith nodded and then straightened out of her mistress's embrace and with a soft, almost lullaby hum coming from her closed mouth, showed the powerful mage the vision of her encounter with the unknown knight that she once knew as Xander and had warned her mistress away.
Morgana stared into open space long after the vision had vanished, a look of stunned astonishment clear on her features. One of the nearby demons whimpered in worried confusion while a costumed vampire they had picked up not long ago asked, also worried, "Mistress? What is it?"
Morgana's face scowled in rage and fury, scaring her demonic minions a little further back as she screeched, "/Arthur!!/"
His message to her was still looping in her mind as she let her fury and anger grow more and more. /"Tell her who is also here with her in this time. And tell her I will stop her, no matter what."/
"Forget the Hellmouth," she shouted to all her minions, "We've got bigger problems. I need an army. Let's go find some demons that haven't been transformed by chaos."
"Ahhh!" a woman's scream cut through Arthur's distracted mind. Without hesitation he started racing towards the source of the sound. Shortly, he found the disturbance as he caught sight of some kind of dog-beast chasing a woman in rather simple, skin-tight clothing, much like the Fay often wore, only with a spotted and vaguely cat-like pattern on it.
Obviously the young woman with dark hair was not of the Fair Folk, as she screamed again, running as fast as she humanly could on her two legs, "Somebody HELP ME!"
Arthur began to race after her, and while he was in good shape, his armor kept him from reaching his maximum speed. Fortunately for the woman, he didn't need to get there first. Someone else did.
A large man dressed in green forest clothing and carrying weapons the like Arthur had never seen, suddenly appeared between the dog-beast and the woman and used the blunt end of the weapon in his hands to smash the beast's face in and knock it away. With a snarl, the beast turned back on the soldier, who then turned the business end of his weapon on it, but fortunately Arthur had gotten there by that point.
Excalibur briefly flashed a bright blue color as Arthur came up and swung with the flat of the legendary blade to the back of the beast's neck with all of his strength. The transformed creature's head remained intact, but luckily for the soldier and the woman, it collapsed into unconsciousness.
For a moment, all was quiet in the alley. Then, the men seemed to catch their breath and the woman realized she wasn't in danger anymore. So the soldier raised his weapon and pointed it at Arthur's head.
"Identify yourself!" he barked out.
Arthur stared unflinchingly down the barrel of the gun and into the soldier's eyes. "My name is Arthur," he answered in the same language, a trace of an accent left in his voice, "and I mean you no harm. I only wished to aid you in defeating this foul beast and protecting the maiden behind you."
"Yeah, sell me another one," the soldier snapped, "I don't know what the FUBAR is going on, but I want your rank and regiment right now before I blow you freaking head off, YOU UNDERSTAND ME!"
Arthur squinted his eyes in anger and was about to reply to the soldier's demand, when the maiden came forward and glared at him and the soldier.
"Xander?" she asked, sounding confused.
Arthur just looked at her, equally confused. "I'm afraid you have me confused for someone else my lady. My name is Arthur. Now would you kindly . . ."
The brunette then turned and stared wide-eyed at the soldier and shouted with righteous indignation, "Larry! What the hell do you think you're doing! Where did you get that gun? Never mind, drop that gun this instant before you kill somebody!"
"Listen lady, I don't know you, so just back off, all right!" Larry shouted, looking like he was about to hit her, until Arthur was suddenly up in his face.
"You, /sir/, are acting rather rudely for a soldier of /any/ caliber!" Arthur snapped as he forcefully tore the rifle from the startled man's hands. "First, you will offer your jacket, seeing as I myself have none, to the lady, and secondly you will apologize to her forthwith!"
"I have a name you know," the young beauty sarcastically remarked, drawing the men's blank stares. "Cordelia? Cordelia Chase! Gawd! What is with you two tonight?"
The soldier just stared for a moment, fighting with indecision, until Arthur, full of royal dignity and showing he was and always would be a true leader, snapped with full authority, "Now soldier! Consider it an order if you must!"
At that Larry gulped and nodded and then took off his jacket, still wearing a camo-green tank top, which showed off his muscles, and handed the jacket to Cordelia while apologizing, "Uh, I'm sorry. I . . . didn't mean to offend you, or hurt you at all."
"Oh, well," Cordelia suddenly looked rather uncomfortable and put-upon, especially as she seemed to notice for the first time that her costume was nearly ripped to shreds, "that's . . . OK. Look, can somebody please explain to me what the hell is going on? First Jo-Jo the dog-faced boy attacks me outta nowhere, thanks for knocking him out or whatever by the way, then you two show up and first of all you don't know me, then you don't know each other, and you're acting very much not like yourselves. Is this some kind of Hellmouth thing Xander?" she turned towards Arthur.
"Hellmouth!" Arthur exclaimed, suddenly /very/ worried. "We're on a Hellmouth?"
"Yeah? What's your function? You help Miss Chosen One Slayer take out vampires and other weird stuff all the time," Cordelia remarked.
Arthur seemed to contemplate something for several moments before finally turning in a specific direction and started walking briskly.
"Hey! What'd I say?" Cordelia called after him.
"There is a dangerous . . . magic in the air. Pure chaos. I've been trained to detect it for most of my life. It, more than likely, is what has caused people to transform into beasts, among other things, as well as displaced a number of us," he explained as he walked, his two new friends following as close as they could keep up.
"Wait a minute," Larry interrupted, "You mean the Cong is playing with biological warfare?"
"Far worse than that I'm afraid," was all Arthur said, despite not really knowing what 'biological warfare' was, but he understood the term 'warfare' though and that was enough for him.
"FUBAR," was all the soldier said as he clicked the safety off his rifle and opened the clip on his holster for the pistol residing there.
"What the hell does that mean anyway?" Cordelia whined as she pulled the jacket a little closer around her.
"Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition," Larry replied as he began eyeing their surroundings, constantly turning about to get sight from all angles.
"Strangely appropriate in this circumstance, I assure you," Arthur replied.
"OK, what is with the funny talking thing Xander!" the brunette demanded.
"I believe people refer to it as a dialect accent," the King answered with strained patience.
"Yeah, so when did you pick up one?"
Arthur stopped and turned to look at her, and then began looking around. He quickly found a window in a nearby building. "Come," he said and then stepped up to his reflection, and stopped. "By the Lord Almighty!" he exclaimed.
"What? It's just a window, plain reflection," Larry said, briefly admiring his muscles.
"I'm young!" Arthur explained his reaction.
"What's your point?" Cordelia snapped.
"The last thing I recall," he said, admiring his reflection further, "before finding myself here, I was a 50 year old man fighting a dying battle."
"Arthur?" Larry said the man's name, but this time with confusion and a hint of awe.
Arthur straightened and turned to look at his two, and possibly only friends in this strange land. "I believe you might better know me by my title. I am Arthur Pendragon, King and Ruler of all Britain, and wielder of the Sword from the Stone, Excalibur."
Larry and Cordelia just stared, jaws dropped in shock.
Finally Cordelia snapped out of it and shook her head and shouted, "/King/ Arthur! You really think you're King Arthur?"
Arthur merely shrugged and nodded. "I do not just think, my lady. I /am/ King Arthur, and by holding Excalibur," he held up the glowing and very powerful blade weapon, "proves it. I do not know exactly how I got here, but I do know that I can help save this township, but . . . I am afraid I will need your help. I can track the source of this magic that is affecting the people here, but I do not know the area well enough to find it. Will you help me? Please?"
"Since when does King Arthur need to say please?" Larry challenged.
Arthur took it in stride and replied, "Since he finds himself in a land he does not know, a time he is not from, and without Knights, mages, or Kingdom to call upon. All I have is you, and I find that politeness and asking goes a far longer way than just demanding cooperation."
Larry shrugged. "Good enough for me, but I don't know the area. Can help you out if any more monsters or charlie shows up though."
The other two shook their head after a moment, not knowing who 'Charlie' was and figuring it wasn't too important. Then the men both turned to Cordelia, who sighed and tucked the jacket even tighter around her. "All right, fine, I'll play babysitter until you two get your heads back on straight. Where do you want to go?"
"For the moment, all I have is a direction. If we run into obstacles, do you think you could direct us around them?" Arthur asked as he sheathed Excalibur and began his brisk pace once more.
"Yeah, sure," Cordelia huffed as she followed the men.
Morgana wasn't sure whether to be amused, insulted, or pissed off by the greasy vampire with bleached hair, much like vikings of the North often did to their women, those they didn't take as slaves that is. He spoke with a commoner's tongue, but his behavior gave way to that of the lesser nobles she used to associate with.
"Well, well, well," the cockney accented Spike drawled as he paced in front of the dark sorceress, "What have we here? The Slayer going to a party with her bunch of fake demons?"
Morgana raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, and briefly entertained a fantasy of the things she could do to this creature before dusting away it's entire existence, or just enslave the vampire and it's minions like she had all her other pet demons. Then, something curious caught her eye. A young girl, Greek by appearance, wearing a white dress, and also quite obviously a vampire, appeared by the greasy vampire's side.
When she spoke, it was with the voice and mannerisms of a very young child, maybe a toddler. But that wasn't what intrigued Morgana to the vampiress.
"Spike, she's not the Slayer. Mrs. Edith warns me of the Blood Red Ruby. She shines brightly tonight, but will be outshone by the Diamond in the Rough, until all the pretty colors is broken by the mean Tweed-man."
"A seer?" Morgana asked before Spike could respond. "An insane vampiress seer. Interesting. You." She pointed at Spike and immediately two of her own larger minions suddenly attacked the vampire, restraining him before he could fight back or anybody else could even react. "I propose an alliance," she said coldly once he was before her, caressing his face like that of a loyal dog's. "I find myself free from the captivity of death and your /Slayer/ here has been most useful, serving as my host. I would like to remain in this world, but to do that, what caused this transformation in the first place must not be undone. There is a man, who is going to try to reverse, or at the very least stop this. It is in both of our best interests if you accept my proposal."
"Oh, and why's that?" Spike snarled as he struggled, but was held securely, and his minions were being held off by Morgana's own. Especially her Banshee. "Love the accent by the way, luv."
Morgana smirked. Her ring of Fire, the red-jeweled ring, flashed brighter for a moment before flames actually came out of it and soon formed a fireball in the hand she was holding next to Spike's face.
"As I was saying," she continued, "It is in both of ours best interest if we join forces. I have powers that you and your little seer can't begin to imagine. I have need of the strength of your rather pitiful army of vampires here, as well as the input of your seer. Now we can work together . . . or I can kill you, enslave them with magic, and cut off all the limbs of the seer and drag her around by the hair on her scalp. All I really need from her is her power of fortune and I don't need her self-mobile in order to get it from her."
The rage in Spike's eyes was exactly what Morgana wanted to see.
"Now, in addition to sparing your un-life and the willing cooperation of your brood, I can also promise you that this Slayer will not trouble you ever again. Especially if I am allowed to remain, and after tonight, providing I have no more need of you, you can go and do whatever the hell you like. I won't bother you if you don't bother me. And if you want a reward . . ." Morgana paused as she knelt so she was eye-to-eye with the vampire and turned on her seductress charm, " . . . well, killing this Slayer may no longer be an option, but I can promise you pleasures that would make you scream and if you weren't already dead, would probably kill you from the sheer force of the pleasure."
Spike suddenly stopped struggling. "Are you proposing what I think you're proposing?" he asked, the tone just as shocked and pleased as Morgana had expected. Goddess this was too easy.
In reply, Morgana just smirked knowingly and turned to her side as she stood back up, showing the arch of her body's features and exactly how fit and attractive it was.
"We'll see. Now do we have a deal?" she asked, her tone still slightly seductive, but still all-business.
Spike seemed to think it over for a moment or two and then finally snarled and forced himself to his feet. The creatures holding him allowed him that much, but would keep him from attacking their mistress.
"Lady, you got yourself a deal," he finally said, and then backed up from her, the minions letting him, and gave a bow that was worthy of a lesser noble. Full of contempt.
Morgana smiled and nodded. "Seer, come here," she commanded.
Drusilla obediently stepped forward.
Turning back to Spike, Morgana smirked again as she spoke to him, "Oh dear, how terribly rude of me. We forgot the introductions. You first."
"Spike," he retorted with a sneer, but remained where he was.
Eyebrows arched in amusement, Morgana briefly cast a look over the vampire. "Yes, rather. I am Morgana Le Fey, Lady of the Green, High Priestess of Avalon, and the Sorceress known as the Dark Queen. And as your seer explained, I am also sometimes known as the Blood Red Ruby."
Spike's eyes went wide and he couldn't help but gulp in appreciation of how much danger he had been in until now. "Uh, for-forgive me, my Lady," he bowed again, far more nervously and much more respectfully, "I, uh, I had no idea that . . ."
"Quite all right," Morgana blew him off, and then turned back to Drusilla. "Now tell me seer. Where is the Diamond in the Rough? Where is Arthur?"
"Are you really King Arthur?" Larry asked for the third time.
Arthur had found it easier, after a rather abysmal first attempt to explain the exactness of his circumstances, to just answer, "Yes."
"And that's really Excalibur?"
"Oh would you SHUT UP about that already! Geez!" Cordelia snapped at the soldier. "You're both whacked right now! And for the third time already, he's really Xander Harris, all around dweeb and loser friend to the Slayer. And you're our second string quarterback, Larry Blaisdale."
"I never played second string in High school," the soldier snapped back.
"You're still /IN/ High school!" Cordelia shouted at him.
"By any chance are you two in a relationship?" Arthur asked.
"What? NO!" both of them shouted.
"Ah, then why is it that you're fighting like an old married couple?" he asked.
"We are not!" they both shouted.
"And I'm not the King of England," he retorted.
"You're /NOT/!!" Cordelia shouted. Then she stopped and pointed them down a side street. "We have to go down this way. This street is a dead end with a cemetery between here and down town. I'm guessing that whatever it is you want /is/ downtown, am I right Xander?"
"My name, if you would be so kind as to humor me," Arthur sarcastically remarked, "is Arthur. Call my Wart or Arty and I don't care if you're a lady, I'll string up up by your feet and leave you hanging from a tree for any of the local wildlife to find you. And considering this is the Hellmouth, I seriously doubt the wildlife you'd be encountering would be squirrels and rabbits."
"And for the last time, I don't know /where/ the source of this chaos is, only the general direction. I'm able to track it thanks only to Excalibur's power. It enhances my senses, as well as allows me access to the mystical. If not to exercise power in the mystical, than at least to detect large changes in it."
"Like this chaos thing you say the Cong is using to turn everybody into monsters?" Larry clarified.
"I do not know who or what is responsible, but suffice to say, yes," Arthur answered.
"OK, sexy as the accent is, stop talking like that," Cordelia snapped.
"Talking like what?" Arthur asked, confused.
"Like some old, educated guy. You're Xander Harris, all around loser, bad dresser, and D- average student. So just stop it, all right!"
Still confused, but not wishing to cause the young woman any more distress, Arthur just nodded, keeping quiet for the moment, and at the first path that the lady said lead to "down town", moved them back on course to the source of the chaos.
"This," Morgana was saying as she and her army rapidly marched along, picking up more demons, both transformed and normal . . . as normal as demons ever got, "is a problem."
"How so ducks?" Spike asked as he easily kept pace with the legendary Dark Sorceress.
Morgana glared at him, which automatically caused the creature to back up and whimper like he'd been struck. Thing was, he didn't know what this new version of the Slayer could do, what spells she could cast with just a look.
"One," her voice still English proper, "don't call me that. Two, your seer is prophesying Arthur succeeding in reversing this chaos spell, sending me back to my afterlife prison, and oh by the way, you'll be dust before morning. This," she raised her voice, "IS A PROBLEM!!"
"Right," Spike quickly agreed, until his brain caught up and he began to realize exactly what she had said. "Hey, wait, what was that about me being dust?"
"I don't know, I stopped paying attention by then," Morgana snapped sarcastically at the vampire. "My point is, we need to find Arthur, and we need to stop him NOW!" The ethereal shout spurred her army on even faster and they aggressively began tearing through the streets, but always remained within distance if their mistress needed them for anything.
"Yeah, that's all well and good, but what about making him come to us?" Spike deviously suggested.
"Why do you think we're going to the Hellmouth instead of the source of the spell?" she snapped at him again. "Try to keep up. I never put all my eggs, jewels, or anything else I don't want anyone else to have, in one basket. Translation for your feeble little brain and your over sized prick . . ."
"HEY!" Spike yelled indignantly.
"I'm putting together several backup plans. Even if I have to open the Hellmouth to ensure that I stay on Earth," Morgana cursed.
"Uh, right, so, care to let me in on one of these plans?" Spike asked.
Morgana paused for a moment, and then seemed to regard the vampire, very closely. Finally, "All right. Go, take your vampires and several of the transformed vampires from the group. The Banshee will lead you to Arthur. Not that you could, but all the same, don't kill him. Not yet. Give him a message. I'm going to open the Hellmouth. He'll probably capture you. Answer his questions, not that you'll have a choice if he's got Excalibur."
"Wait a minute," Spike interrupted, "That Arthur? The Excalibur? The whole Sword in the Stone, Once and Future King bullshit? THAT Arthur???"
Morgana smiled rather darkly at the vampire, so he felt chills run down his back when she answered, "Yes. That Arthur. Answer his questions honestly and without hesitation if he captures you. But don't just let yourself be captured. Of course a master vampire like you is hardly to the point where you'll kill yourself, so I'm taking into account that you'll barter for your life if he catches you. Now you know, if I ever see you again, I won't instantly destroy your demon and whatever remains of your body. Now go," she ordered.
Spike knew a command from something that could kill him faster than he could blink. So he went.
"We passed downtown!" Cordelia shouted for the third time as Arthur lead them past another side street that would have lead them to the main thorough-fair of Sunnydale.
"But the source of this spell is in that direction," he pointed ahead, still following the trail, "not over there," he pointed in the direction where Cordelia was saying downtown was.
"Great, there goes my deposit on this costume with Party Town," Cordelia cursed as she fingered one of the tears in the sleeve of her costume.
"Lady, maybe it's just me," Larry cursed at her, "but we've got a lot more to worry about than your /deposit./"
"Sir soldier," Arthur input at that, "it has been my experience that women, particularly ladies of merchants and nobility, have their own set of priorities, and damn anyone and everyone that tries to convince them otherwise."
"Did you just insult me Harris!" Cordelia snapped.
Arthur turned and glared at her, reminding Cordelia she had promised to call him Arthur and not Xander Harris, and then when he turned back he answered, "No, just stating a fact."
"Did he just insult me?" she asked Larry.
"Nope, just stating a fact," the soldier repeated with a grin.
The cheerleader glowered at the two men, but just sighed as she let it go and kept up with their fast pace. Until she felt something, or thought she felt something, go up her spine. She thought it was nothing, just a cold wind on her back, until Arthur suddenly stopped and froze in place.
Instantly the other two were on guard and began scanning the shadows for movement, or for anything that could be a demon or monster looking to attack them. Larry even pulled out his rifle and started sighting every shadow on the street. Arthur however, was searching the skies.
"What was that?" Cordelia asked, a slight whimper in her voice.
Arthur looked surprised and glanced at her for a moment. "You felt that?" he asked. She nodded, looking petrified.
"Felt what?" Larry asked, looking from shadow to shadow. "You know, Arty, these hunches of yours about magic and all that . . ."
He was interrupted when a loud, high-pitched wail pierced the night and made all their hairs stand on end, not literally though. A moment later, the Banshee appeared at the end of the street, flying through the air, the rags of her clothing flapping in the almost non-existent breeze, making her even more wraith-like. Her open maw let forth another echoing wail, which seemed to propel her even faster down the street towards the group. Unfortunately, right below her, on the street, was a large number of vampires who were racing just as fast as the Banshee for the three humans.
"Holy shit!" Larry shouted as he brought his weapon up and quickly let some short bursts into the vampire's midst.
"Hold," Arthur ordered. Larry paused, and then finally sided his firearm, prepared to run as fast as possible seeing as his weapon didn't seem to have any effect whatsoever on the approaching monsters.
"Let me see your weapon," Arthur said with some urgency.
"Now is SO NOT the time be be comparing guns and swords!" Cordelia shouted at them. Arthur ignored her however as he drew Excalibur and held it point down in front of the rifle and the handgun that Larry also held up. Bowing his head and closing his eyes in concentration and prayer, Arthur began to speak.
"In the name of the Lord God Almighty, by the power entrusted to me by the Holy Church and the Spirits of Avalon and Nature of Magic, I bless these weapons so they may go forth and smite the demons that plague the Earth and humanity."
The really weird part was that besides Excalibur glowing an even brighter blue during this, the guns themselves began to glow near the end of the blessing, and when Arthur finished, they looked as normal as they always did.
Arthur nodded and gave the guns back to Larry and turned to face the approaching hoard. "Use you weapons now soldier. They should have a much better effect against the undead demons. I will handle the Banshee."
"Uh, sure, all right," Larry replied uncertainly.
"Hey, not to be all Miss downer and everything, but what if some of those things are like you two? In costume but changed?" Cordelia asked.
Arthur squinted, tightening his two handed grip on the blade in his hands. "Some of them are," he answered tersely. Then he rushed forward, aided with Excalibur's power, leaped into the air and with a swipe over her head, brought the Banshee unwillingly to the ground. Meanwhile the other two had to deal with all the vampires rushing them.
"Oh what the hell," Larry muttered as he raised his rifle and fired concentrated, aimed bursts of bullets into the vampires' midst. To everyone's immediate surprise, except maybe Arthur's, every vamp that Larry had hit in the chest dusted, while the shots that had missed began smoking and some even caught fire to the vampires, causing at least a brief reprieve in order for Larry to hand Cordelia his handgun.
"Know how to use one of these?" he asked after.
"NO!" she shouted at him, but palmed the weapon anyway. She may never have held a real gun before this, but she had played shoot'em games in the arcade before and given what was happening around her, the stress put all of her arguments against fighting to shame.
"Point at the bad guys and pull the trigger. Don't point at me or the guy in armor and if you do, don't pull the trigger," Larry stated as he released another volley into the oncoming vampires.
"Why me?" Cordelia asked the heavens as she raised the gun and automatically sighted up a heart-shot. With a gentle, but firm finger, she pulled the trigger once and almost screamed at the recoil of the gun and the loud noise emitted. But her scream was nothing compared to the screaming the vampire she dusted did.
Seeing what she had done, Cordelia smiled, saying under her breath, "Cool." Then, with an evil smirk covering her features, she sighted up another heart-shot and pulled the trigger again, this time keeping her reaction under control, and smirked as she saw the vamp she'd shot disappear into falling dust.
Over with the Banshee, Arthur was having a more troublesome time than he normally would, all because Excalibur kept insisting that the creature before him was a friend. The legendary blade had never let him strike one of his knights, let alone Lancelot, his best friend, but the one time Morgana had managed to twist that friendship around when they actually were fighting each other, while Excalibur had let him defend himself, it kept insisting that Lancelot was a friend and would not allow him to strike the knight down.
Arthur had no idea who this creature might have been before being turned into the wraith that it was now, but he surmised that there was a history he was unaware of, that this woman would be as close to him as Lancelot . . .
"I trust you gave your mistress my message," he taunted her.
He wasn't expecting her to answer, but he never anticipated her contorting her nearly flawless, but far from beautiful, ashen-gray face in rage and swiping at him with her talon fingers. He danced back, judging her reaction and swiped back, not actually trying to cause any damage, just get her to back up. She shrunk back, but her face was still angry, as she opened her maw and let out a sonic blast, which to the human ears sounds like a high-pitched scream that causes a tension headache, but that's just the distorted wave of sound traveling through the air. Arthur leaped back into a double somersault, the pavement where he had been standing suddenly exploded as the blast hit and several components turning to fine gravel.
He landed on the balls of his feet and immediately jumped back a short distance, avoiding the next sonic blast. Then, he and the Banshee just stared at each other for a moment.
"You're mistress must have remade your entire being, including your memories, so you wouldn't even recognize me or my face, if we truly are friends. I swear to you here and now Banshee, I will free you from your enslavement and return you to the form you once were." Arthur vowed.
"You talk too much," a voice said from behind him.
Without even looking, Arthur just rammed the butt of Excalibur's hilt into the face of the vampire that had been sneaking up on him and had been about to hit him across the back of the head with a 2x4. His nose broken, the vampire cried out in pain, dropping the wooden beam and held his bleeding wound.
"And you make too much noise when you aren't breathing," the warrior quipped, keeping his eyes on the Banshee.
"Bloody hell!" Spike shouted, stumbling back as he held his nose, begging and cursing for the pain to stop.
The Banshee scowled and seemed to be taking a deep breath. Arthur's eyes went wide and quickly began running. Half an instant later a wave of sound, the echo of which human ears couldn't begin to detect, passed through the human and vampire and struck the building right behind them. A rumbling came from the ground and the building itself as Arthur and Spike looked up at it, worried. A minute later, their worry was justified because as they watched the nearest wall of the building disconnect from the rest of the structure and began to topple forward. On top of them!
Arthur, still running, took a diving roll just before the wall finished it's fall. Spike, nose and mouth bloody, just looked at the approaching danger and muttered to himself, "Bugger." Then the wall hit, and since it was only a brick wall instead of stone or steel, it crumbled to pieces the moment it hit the pavement. So the vampire wasn't squished flat, but he was buried under nearly a ton of rubble.
Over with the others, the vampires had finally gotten close enough that Cordelia and Larry kept backing away just to keep from being clawed at, still firing into the vampires, occasionally dusting one or two, but mostly just keeping them back from the pain of the blessed bullets.
When one vampire finally got past Larry, he managed to land a swiping strike on Cordelia, ripping the torso of her costume to shreds, also coming dangerously close to tearing open the top of her outfit too, and leaving five read lines across her stomach. Crying out with pain and fury, Cordelia stepped back, and then, rage in her eyes she pointed the gun and coldly dusted the vampire with a single squeeze.
Turning to the rest of them, the wounded brunette was brutally efficient as she turned to each one in turn, firing only once, and dusting with every shot. Finally only five vampires, not counting Spike beneath the rubble, were left, three of them wearing rather ancient garbs that you would normally only find in Dracula novels.
Before Larry could turn his rifle upon them however, Arthur appeared behind the vamps and with three quick movements that the soldier couldn't even follow, beheaded the two real vampires, letting them fall to dust before their heads even hit the ground. Arthur then turned to the last three vampires, sensing what they truly were and ordered with a command that broke no argument, "Do not continue this, because you cannot win. Go back to her. I'm sure if she doesn't kill you she'll just let you off with some minor torture at the news of your failure. But with her there is a chance you'll survive. Not if you continue this fight. LEAVE!"
The vampires, not even that brave when they were human, turned and fled, leaving only the Banshee and the unconscious Spike. Larry and Cordelia came up on either side of Arthur, the guns in their hands raised and aimed right at the wraith. Of course even weapons blessed to kill the undead couldn't do much more than mildly hurt a wraith on the level of a Banshee, but the threat was clear all the same.
"Bye bye," Arthur waved, smirking.
Screaming in frustration, the Banshee launched into the air and disappeared into the night.
"OK, what the hell was that," Cordelia demanded to know as she handed the handgun back to Larry.
"A Banshee," Arthur answered as he resheathed Excalibur and turned back to the unconscious vampire.
"Right, of course, a Banshee," she said matter-of-factly. Larry took a step back and then winced. "WHAT THE FREAKING HELLIS A BANSHEE AND WHAT WAS IT DOING HERE!!??" Cordelia shouted, out of breath when she finished.
"A Banshee is a wraith, a trapped spirit that is filled with hate, bitterness, and desires only to destroy or cause pain to human beings. That Banshee was not a true sdhe. Morgana, an . . . old acquaintance of mine, must have transformed some innocent person into it. The only way to reverse the curse upon that soul is to defeat Morgana, or possibly reverse the spell of chaos, which might be a direct cause of that person to being transformed by Morgana, and therefore . . ."
"Stop the chaos, everything goes back to normal," Larry picked up the train of thought. Arthur nodded. "Exactly," he complimented the soldier.
Turning his attention to the remaining vampire, the warrior considered having Excalibur out, just in case, when he got a look at the creature's body. Smirking, Arthur just continued digging him out, revealing stone-by-stone the mangled heap that used to be the vampire's legs.
As expected, the moment his upper torso was freed from the rubble, the vampire master attacked, trying to with kill the person digging him out, or just feed from him. Before he even sat up all the way, Arthur simply clubbed the bleached blonde man over the head with his mace, which had been handily hanging on the side facing the vampire, knocking it out again.
"Why not just kill this thing like the others?" Larry asked while keeping his rifle trained on the thing in case it tried to attack the Once and Future King again. Not that Larry actually believed him about being King Arthur, but he had no other evidence to discount the man either.
"Information," was all Arthur said with a grin.
"Oh sure, and what makes you think it'll actually tell us the truth about anything?" Cordelia snapped at the soldiers.
"I can be very . . . persuasive, when I need to be," Arthur answered cryptically. "Besides, if Morgana did send these vampires after me, she'll want me to know what she's planning. Call it a villainess thing."
"Oh," the cat-dressed girl mumbled.
Arthur waited for Spike to wake up, a little bit to the side, while Larry pointed his rifle to his forehead. The vampire started groaning, but in seconds he was fully awakened, looking cross-eyed to the muzzle of the rifle.
"Oh, bollocks!" he said, "I should never had trusted that bint, Slayer or no!"
"I want to ask a few questions, demon," Arthur said, his sword sheathed. "This could go two-ways, you can answer truthfully and quick, and we will treat you with honor, even you not deserving it, or you can lie and take our time, and we could get . . . creative."
"Sod off, ya. . ." Spike started, only to be kicked in the chin by Larry's boot. He tried to stand up, irate, but the muzzle pressed to his forehead stopped the action.
"As I was saying, quick or slow, your choice?"
Spike grumbled something under his breath, but said out loud. "What do you want to know?"
"What my half-sister told you to tell me."
"She said that she was going to open the Hellmouth."
"That's it, you wanker!"
"Nothing with Morgana is that simple. What else?" he said, drawing Excalibur. Spike's eyes grew like saucers, his game face showing.
"She said she had some plans to stay behind, after this damn mess ended. So I guess that your precious Slayer is lost, whelp," he said, defiant.
Arthur looked to a surprised Cordelia. "Where is the Hellmouth located?"
"U-under the school's library."
"Can you take us there?"
"S-sure. Hey, we'll probably find Giles there as well!"
"Who is this 'Giles' person?"
"He's Buffy's Watcher, he'll probably know what to do."
Arthur turned back to the vampire. "Last question. Is Morgana going to, eventually, go to the center of the chaos spell?"
"What?!" Spike screeched, having no clue what the young man, who should have been the annoying normal boy that panted after the Slayer like a puppy, had just said.
In reply to that, Arthur just put Excalibur next to the vampire's neck, so the demon could feel the power of the sword, and said much slower, "I know her. I know her very well. And I know she knows what has brought us here same as I do. A spell of dark chaos. Break the spell, we all get sent home and everything returns to normal. . . . . Well, as normal as anything ever could be on top of a Hellmouth."
"Wait a sec, you're King Arthur," Spike confirmed, "And you know about Hellmouths?!"
"I had Camelot built atop the lands largest, in order to safeguard humanity, as well as provide Merlin with the energy necessary to seal it once and for all, so yes, I do. Now answer my question vampire before I lose my patience with you. Will Morgana go to the source of the spell?"
Spike smirked and absently raised his head, which had the effect of cutting his neck on the Sword, before answering, "Only when you go after it."
Scowling at the now laughing vampire, Arthur withdrew Excalibur, and then took hold of his mace, and with all of his might, slammed it down on the demon's right knee. Before the creature's laughs had turned all the way to screams of pain, he had already obliterated the other kneecap.
"In case we need more information later," Arthur replied coldly to the demon's screams, "Provided we make it back before sunrise that is." With that, he, followed closely by Cordelia and Larry, left the alley, Cordelia now leading them towards the High School.
"Oh my poor, poor Spike," Drusilla started moaning suddenly.
"Oh good, Arthur got my message," Morgana grinned at Drusilla's behavior, which happened to coincide with the Banshee returning, once more in defeat. Not that she expected anything different against Arthur. And after all, it could hardly be blamed on the creature, after all it was doing the best it could, she had made it after all.
"There, there," she comforted the wraith, petting it's hand, "I'm not angry. You did exactly as I wanted you to. Remember, I appreciate loyalty over success, unlike some idiots that I paid to lead my armies against Camelot in . . ." Morgana seethed for a moment before squeezing her eyes shut in effort to rein in her destructive temper. When she had herself under control once more, she opened her eyes on the Banshee and petted her hand again saying, "There, there."
"Let us hasten to the Hellmouth!" she ordered her demon army.
After a shout of triumph went up from the crowd, Morgana pulled her created-servant aside and quickly ordered that the Banshee fly over all Sunnydale and bring any and all that were transformed from their costumes to her. The Banshee left with a wail of glee.
Rupert Giles, believing whole heartedly in what his books, his peers, and even his personal experience told him in that Halloween would be a night off for the forces of darkness and evil-doing, on a world-destruction basis, had planned his night around it. Taking the opportunity to catch up on some of the few things that he truly enjoyed doing, such as reading a good book and sitting down with a cup of Earl Grey, to finishing up several things he had been putting off for several weeks, if not months already. Specifically, putting all of the books that the students of the High School often took off the shelves and put in the completely wrong places, as well as reorganizing the card catalog.
Then it all went to Hell in a hand-basket when nearly a dozen demons, of varying types, burst in through windows and doors and one even came through a wall. Cursing the Hellmouth, because that's all he could really blame for ruining his one night off, Giles wasted no time on meaningless prattle and dove for the weapons cage to grab as many weapons as he could use to defend himself and the Library.
However when another full dozen demons and vampires followed the first dozen, he quickly decided retreat was the better form of valor at this time.
So, holding only a battle axe, his favorite fencing saber, and a fully loaded crossbow, the Watcher attempted to make his way to the rear exit, hoping against the odds that he could actually make it. That was until he saw that most of the demons appeared to actually be coming from the rear exit, thus he immediately turned around to try leaving through the school.
He was brought to a sudden halt at seeing three people standing there right inside of the double-swing doors that might have been his salvation. The one at the center, standing regally like she was the Queen herself, bedecked in a flowing red bodice dress that was about three centuries out of date, at least, was whom his eyes locked onto first. Not that it was difficult as the attention of everyone and everything in the room was drawn to her like light to a black hole.
Out of his peripheral he could make out a tall, thin, and very pale woman in a dress of similar century, but far more plain and a faded off-white, which seemed somehow to make her just as dangerous as the powerful-looking woman at the center, and on the other side was a creature that Giles had only heard of, and thus far believed to be in ancient tomes and fairy tails, but was undoubtedly a banshee. If the lack of dress and health, then its red hair was definitely what gave it away.
Giles was still stuck on the central figure however, especially given that fact that despite the young woman having raven black hair and dressed in finery and jewelry that would and could actually put the crown jewels to shame, he still recognized her face.
"Buffy?!" he exclaimed, extremely confused by this sudden turn of events. For starters, when did his Slayer change her hair color?
"Hm?" the central figure seemed to only just take notice of him. She also revealed an English accent that he was positive Buffy herself did not have.
"Oh, you must be the Watcher that creature Spike warned me about. Now that I think of it, you do look somewhat familiar. Bah, it'll probably come to me later. In the mean time," the woman's expression suddenly darkened into a rather . . . 'evil' looking humor, "let's have some fun, shall we?"
"This is your school?!" Arthur and Larry both exclaimed once it became obvious that Cordelia was leading them to a certain set of buildings.
"Our school!" Cordelia griped but didn't deviate from her course.
"It looks like some kind of Mexican church, or what did they call them? Missions?" Larry commented.
"Considering that in my time schooling was something only nobles received and even then only from the Church, my exclamation was more towards that this is far larger than I expected. And who in their right mind builds a school with children in it over a Hellmouth!!" Arthur retorted.
"I'm not listening, so stop talking!" Cordelia snapped, until Arthur and Larry both quickly and roughly pulled her down and then the three of them quickly ran for cover in a shadowed-alley.
"What—!" she started to scream, but Arthur firmly placed his hand over her mouth. Then Larry silently pointed at the rather large mob, or perhaps army of demons and other creatures swarming into the school.
Confident she had seen the danger and would no longer endanger their presence, Arthur slowly released her and allowed the young lady to stand on her own. "What the hell is going on here?" Larry cursed.
"Morgana's been busy," Arthur mused.
"We're not going to have to deal with that . . . that . . . thing again, are we?" Cordelia worriedly asked.
"If you are referring to the Banshee, than I am afraid the answer is yes. But not to worry. I will not allow it, or anything else out there, to harm you. And I am sure the soldier here is more than willing to offer the same vow."
"Got that right. I may not be a king or a knight or anything, but I'm sure as hell not gonna let people get killed right in front of me, certainly not pretty little ladies such as yourself ma'am."
"If I wasn't so terrified right now I'd probably slap both of you for being macho pigs," the young woman whispered.
"Now what yer Majesty?" Larry asked, shouldering his rifle.
"Given the circumstances, I believe it would be all right if you called me Arthur. Besides, if what you say, and what my memories tell me is true, then I am no longer the standing monarch of Britain. And in the heat of battle, even my Knights, my truest friends, reverted to calling my Arthur rather than 'Your Majesty' or 'Liege' or 'King Arthur'. As for what we must do now. We wait," he answered, stepping further back into the alley, further into the shadows.
"Whatever you say . . . Arthur," Larry nodded, remembering Arthur's earlier warnings about the types of nicknames he didn't want to be called.
"His name is Xander!" Cordelia snapped one last time before following the two.
"N-n-now, now b-b-Buffy," Giles stuttered as he was held down by a couple of vampires to a wooden chair as Morgana paced in front of him, Drusilla at her side.
"Somebody shut him up, I'm trying to think," the Dark Sorceress commanded, holding up a hand as a demon stepped forward with a weapon and she amended, "I meant gag him or something. He's still useful to me both alive, whole, and largely unharmed seeing how much bruising and concussions he's already acquired."
"Bloody Hellmouth," Giles cursed the only thing that could be the reason for his Slayer suddenly turning against him by commanding a demon army and to make it worse, talking like a native! Native of the British Isles that is.
"Buffy! Please!" he tried to shout before the demon effectively gagged him with a strip of material he knew he didn't want to think too hard on where it came from.
"Arthur's close, I can feel him," Morgana mumbled to herself, still pacing.
"The Diamond's gone and gotten himself some friends," Drusilla crowed, swaying to an unseen and unheard rhythm. "Pretty kitty, want to eat you all up. Silver wings upon his chest, a man, America's best. Back at home a young girl waits, her man has met his fate." She hummed the rest, but out of all those gathered, only Giles vaguely understood what all it might mean. Morgana obviously knew that it was a vision, but the insane mutterings made absolutely no sense to her. Beyond one simple fact. Arthur had allies.
It didn't matter though, she calmed herself, she had an army!
Turning to said army, her ring flashing with magical might, she commanded, "BRING ME ARTHUR!"
Faster than the Watcher expected, the demons and other . . . creatures, save for the Banshee, Drusilla, and the transformed Buffy herself, fled out of every possible exit, some making new ones on their way to obey the order of their mistress.
He tried to reason with her once again, yet was unwillingly reminded of the gag the moment he did. Grumbling and mumbling to himself, trying to figure things out, he sat there, tied to his chair, gagged with he didn't /want/ to know what, while his Slayer went evil with dark magic and tried to kill somebody named . . . Arthur?
No . . . It . . . it, NO! It couldn't be! There was no possible . . . way . . .
Buffy was Morgaine Le Fey? Or rather, possessed by her it would seem.
Then that would mean that the Arthur she was going on about . . . was, was Arthur . . . /Pendragon/? Once and Future King of All England?! But then who . . . ? Giles wasn't sure he wanted to know.
Sadly, that choice was taken from him over the next few minutes.
Buffy, or perhaps it really was Morgana, turned to the open air behind her, allowing both Giles and her two remaining minions to see as she waved her arm and in response to that gesture, the air shimmered and suddenly displayed images from outside. What was even more fascinating about it, was that it was almost like a camera that could move and could even cut to different views at Morgana's whim.
Giles stifled a curse as he realized the level of power and skill magic like that required. And his Slayer was doing it like pulling a book off a shelf and reading it one-handed!
Then, the Watcher was further distracted by the scene depicted on the living TV screen before them.
The demon army was pouring out of every hole, entrance, exit, and window the school building had, not really going anywhere, just surging outwards, until at the glimpsing corner of some random creature's eyes, Arthur and his allies were discovered and the warning cry went out and suddenly the army had a direction.
Arthur cursed in his native Gaelic when the smallish creature sounded the alarm and every creature and demon in the area immediately converged on their position. Cordelia screamed, and Larry the soldier did what any soldier does in the same situation, he hissed out several descriptive synonyms for feces, raised his weapon, and prepared to attack.
Until Arthur stopped him with a hand on his shoulder and pulled both the teens back into the alley. "Too many," was all he said as he lead the way back into the maze of alleys and streets of Sunnydale.
"They're gonna catch up to us in no time!" Larry argued, "Better to make a stand than have'em catch us in the back!"
"Normally I'd agree if it was just you and me!" Arthur shouted back, "But with Cordelia, we cannot risk it until we have no choice, or at least a more defensible position."
"OK, any suggestions on that?" the soldier asked.
"Here!" Cordelia suddenly ran ahead of Arthur and took the corner they'd come to. Arthur and Larry caught up, taking flanking positions on either side of the brunette, neither arguing as she quickly led them through the maze of alleys and in a couple of instances, open fields. They both knew that she knew the lay of the land better than either of them did, and trusted that she knew of a somewhat safe, and at the very least defensible place.
Before the trio knew it, they were inside the school halls, somehow having completely circumvented the entire demon army outside.
"Are we still going to the Library?" Cordelia, strangely timid after having seen that demon army, asked Arthur in a quiet, slightly out of breath voice.
He merely nodded, keeping most of his attention on their surroundings, prepared for any attack from any direction. Or every direction if need be.
Quietly, Cordelia led them through the dark hallways, Arthur and Larry running sweep and drag as Cordelia stayed between them and gave directions to the one in front when they came to a turn.
Sooner than the part-time Slayerette wanted, they came to the double-doors of the Library, one barely hanging on by a hinge, the other little more than splinters on the floor. Seeing the light coming from the doorway, Arthur stopped the both of them and took them back to the last intersection.
Quietly, he whispered, "I will face Morgana alone. Find a defensible position somewhere nearby, but out of the way, and preferably with no outside access. Friend," he turned to Larry, his eyes deadly serious, "I entrust the lady's protection to you. The blessings on your weapons will last so long as they are still functional weapons, so be cautious and above all else, be smart. If anything there was that Merlin succeeded in teaching me, it was to use your head."
"Xander!" Cordelia hissed.
"You can't face her alone, she's got an /army/ at her back!" Larry protested.
"And being the soldier you are, you should know that when you cut off the snake's head, the rest will die or simply no longer be an issue," Arthur was suddenly silenced when Cordelia latched onto him with almost painful intensity.
"I'm not about to let you be killed!" she hissed again, struggling to keep her voice quiet. "Vampires and helping the Slayer is one thing, but that's an /army/ of /demons/! I doubt even if Buffy were here she could handle all of them!"
"I must do this," he easily pried her off of him with muscles she never knew Xander Harris had, and handed her off to Larry, who quickly dragged her back, planning on holing up in a janitor's closet he'd seen not too far back.
Before Cordelia could protest once more, Arthur quickly and proudly strode down the corridor towards the beacon of light that was the torn open doorway to the Library, which reportedly was directly over the Hellmouth, and no doubt contained his half-sister at full power with her most powerful minions at her side.
The dark haired, chocolate-eyed youth didn't so much as blink as he rounded from the pitch-black corridor into the light-filled room beyond.
Giles would have sworn he was hearing things as Morgana closed the viewing portal, but he was having difficulty deluding himself at the moment, so there was no doubt that he was indeed hearing the footsteps of somebody wearing boots walking down the empty hallway towards the Library.
Apparently Morgana/Buffy, as well as the other two, also heard the sound and all three turned to face the half-destroyed doorway as a young man Giles never expected to see at that moment walked in like he was the King of England. Giles then did a double-take at the shield and armor the youth was wearing and realized with a sinking feeling, that this probably in all likelihood /was/ the King of England. The Once and Future King to be precise.
"Arthur, what a pleasant and unexpected surprise!" Morgana/Buffy spoke like a true noblewoman.
"Morgana, always a pleasure," the young man that could be no one other than King Arthur himself, but at the same time was one of Giles' charges, Xander Harris, sarcastically remarked.
Then they just stood there and stared at each other.
"Odd, how it is that I end up in the Slayer's body while you somehow wind up looking fifty years younger than the last time we saw each other," the dark-haired magician commented after taking in her adversary.
"You honestly wouldn't be fool enough to open up the Primary Hellmouth," Arthur likewise commented, "I've known you for too long, and you yourself once helped Merlin and I in containing the one beneath Camelot. So what is this folly you are after /sister/? Unless you truly mean to delude yourself into thinking that by unleashing the forces of hell that when this spell of chaos lifts you will remain in the Slayer's body?"
"That's right Arthur, you do know me," the ancient woman wearing Buffy's face practically oozed dark sensuality with her words and motions, "Intimately well, as I recall. Care to relive old times. A new body often brings new experiences, for both parties I assure you. Also there doesn't seem to be any danger with incest given that this young one isn't even English by ancestry."
Arthur just gave her a sour look, keeping his hand on Excalibur, but not drawing the magic sword either.
Morgana shrugged and turned away as though it were a trivial matter that didn't even exist in her thoughts anymore. She casually caressed both Drusilla and the Banshee, before walking over to the bound and gagged Giles and likewise stroking him across the face and head. Arthur caught all the subtle hints she was giving him, yet still remained where he was and without moving or aggravating the situation any further.
"What do you want, that is not impossible, Morgana?" the man in a boy's body asked.
"You mean besides being freed from the purgatory of my existence in the afterlife, a second chance at /real/ life, and all my powers restored to me and more?" she, again, sensually spoke the question.
"That purgatory, you earned with your betrayals," Arthur stated, taking one step forward, "The second chance at Life, you can likewise earn," he took a second step forward, "and I would be more than happy to give you that opportunity," he took another step, "but your powers are not my business, nor are they within my domain to command," another step, "and this much I can promise you," he now stood even with Drusilla and the Banshee, both who cowered from him, "that if you continue with your current actions, you will get nothing, but further torment and even longer in your purgatory. The choice is yours."
"Some choice," she sarcastically remarked.
"To use your powers to prevent the chaos from continuing, thereby saving lives and taking several hefty sins off your soul, opposed to risk losing it to Chaos and Hell forever in vain attempts at a second mortal life that you would be stealing?" he challenged.
"Hm, good point," she shrugged and slithered away from Giles to stand before the Warrior King, he was a lot taller than the body she possessed at the moment.
"Or," she suddenly said while the Banshee and Vampiress flocked to her side, "I could take a gamble and clear all my sins at once, and in the process gain an immortal life filled with magic and all my wildest dreams come true." Drusilla, at her side, suddenly gasped, the insane vampire's eyes glassy, yet wide open and staring off into a distance no one else could see.
Morgana smirked knowingly at Arthur and waved with her left hand, "Tah, tah darling." And then she, the Banshee, and Drusilla all vanished in a flash of blood-red light, leaving nothing but air and the memory of their presence behind. But the demon army didn't attack. In fact, it didn't come back at all.
"What the bloody devil...!!" Giles cursed out loud once Xander, Cordelia, and some anonymous football jock finally untied him. At least from his perspective it was Xander, Cordelia, and some random student.
"Giles, are you all right?" Cordelia asked, lapsing into a brief moment of sympathy, added with the knowledge that she was speaking with possibly the only sane person left in Sunnydale.
"What the devil is going on here?" Giles demanded to know, ignoring Cordelia for the moment.
"I'm still trying to figure it all out, however I am willing to impart what knowledge I do have, sir... Giles you called him?" 'Xander' turned the question to Cordelia.
"Giles! Everybody has gone mental! Larry thinks he's in Vietnam of all places, and doesn't even remember being a jock! And Xander thinks he's King Arthur! /King Arthur/!! Even /I/ know that's not normal!" the cat-dressed brunette took the older Englishman by the lapels as she screamed in his face.
Realizing that if he wanted to continue breathing, he should stop ignoring the confused socialite, Giles calmly and gently pried her fingers away from him and gave her a comforting "English" glare. "Cordelia, I promise you I will get to the bottom of this, but for right now, the best thing you can do is sit down and not talk. I'll do all the thinking, you just have to sit still and be quiet for right now. Can you do that?"
Gulping, the brunette just nodded and allowed herself to be sat down in the chair he'd previously been tied to, but once she was settled, he quickly turned to the other two students and roughly dragged them closer to the counter and began talking in hushed, but hurried tones.
"What the /bloody hell/ is going on here?!" the English Watcher demanded in as soft a shout as he could give without alerting Cordelia.
"Chaos," was Arthur's only and simple reply.
"What he said," Larry shrugged.
"Well, yes, that's quite obvious isn't it!" Giles almost snarled at the two teens.
"And yet it is the answer to your question, as well as many others," Arthur logically pointed out. "What else could bring Morgana back to life, in any form, and place her in the body of the current active Slayer? What else could have the power to transform an entire township of people, children especially, into demons and empower ordinary citizens with supernatural gifts? What would anyone have to gain from doing this at all? And, what would have the power to pull me through time, resurrect me, and return me to being a youth? My assumptions have lead me to believe that whomever is responsible for all of this, knew that Morgana would be released, accidentally or otherwise, and thus brought me back in a form where I could battle her successfully. A balance within the chaos, as it were."
Giles just stared, nearly completely floored. First of all to see /Xander Harris/ speaking with an English accent, and not in jest, and secondly the pure and disturbingly accurate assumptions the young man was claiming to have made. Thirdly, the boy, the /boy/ that complained about helping him research and had a crush that wasn't easy /not/ to notice on the Slayer, was carrying Excalibur. /THE/ Excalibur!
No Watcher could ever forget that sword, nor fail to properly identify it. It was a Watcher thing.
"You're King Arthur?" he finally asked in a much more subdued voice.
Arthur sighed and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I admit that I look like a child, and while I am younger in appearance, I assure you my years of experience and memories of my /full/ life are intact and I am quite sane, thank you."
"Wait..." Giles almost stuttered as he came to grips with what was happening, "You're saying that you are still in your own body, but have somehow been made young again? That you aren't possessing a body not your own?"
"Of course not!" Arthur exclaimed, not sure whether or not to be insulted by that.
"Oh dear Lord," Giles quickly grabbed any nearby chair and sat down in it before he fell down as the full implications of everything hit him all at once.
"Dude, I think you broke him," Larry whispered to Arthur.
Grumbling in annoyance, Arthur approached Giles once more, "Sir, the young Miss Chase over there lead us here for two reasons. The first and foremost being that she believed that you would be able to help her and would also have the information necessary to resolve this crisis to it's safe conclusion. The second being that a trustworthy source let slip that Morgana planned, as a back-up, to open the Hellmouth. Quite obviously, that was merely a rouse to distract me. It has also, unfortunately taken me further from the source of the spell that is affecting the town. Now I need your help sir. Are you willing, and able to provide it?"
Hearing /King Arthur/, wielder of Excalibur, Once and Future King, Leader and Founder of Camelot, and childhood hero of one young Rupert Giles, ask that of him was more than enough to bring the Watcher to his feet and at the same time fill him with an overwhelming sense of pride and made him feel as though he could wipe out every vampire on the face of the planet single-handedly.
"Of course your Majesty," Giles bowed briefly, and then composed himself.
"It's just... well, a shock really, everything all at once," he stuttered while he began to pace back and forth rather quickly, thinking rapidly. "Chaos magic, drawing upon the Hellmouth for the source of ambient energies would provide the necessary properties for transforming ordinary people into their costumes... but only if the costumes were marked in someway. Unless whoever did this was fool enough to call down the Avatar of Chaos to do it..."
"No, no, no, thankfully nothing like that!" Arthur quickly assured the Englishman.
"Well that's one bright side I suppose..." Giles trailed off as another thought struck him. "Bringing Morgana and... and, and, uh, well you Sire, now that's another matter. I've read about what happened to Morgana after she was betrayed. She's been able to forcefully reincarnate herself a number of times in the years following her passing, Merlin being there to head her off as it were. To stop and contain her."
He pulled off his spectacles and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "As I recall, in their last encounter, Merlin banished Morgana to the Ghost Roads. Not something, even with magic, she could easily escape from. That is," he suddenly looked up, his eyes wide in revelation, "/if/ she escaped! Perhaps she was brought forth against her will, and the spell wasn't designed around her... and yet Buffy somehow seemed to have dressed as her, thus the spell would seek to make that reality... but it should have only created a fabrication, a false set of memories with no soul and basic chaos magic at its disposal, unless... Oh dear lord! The amulet! Of course!"
"By Jove, I think he's got it," Arthur remarked with a smirk to the soldier.
"Unfortunately that doesn't help us in knowing who did this or why they cast such a spell in the first place. Nor why it is that some people were affected, but others, like Cordelia and myself were not. Even if I weren't in costume..." Giles trailed off.
"Well, as for the source of this chaos, I have a general direction on the /where/, but I was hoping that you might have some answers as to your other questions," Arthur informed the Watcher.
"Sadly, no..." Giles muttered.
"I got my costume at Partytown," Cordelia quietly told them, feeling like a small child while all the adults and 'big people' talked about things she couldn't understand. It was a pitiful feeling.
"Yes, that's very good Cordelia," Giles patronizingly commented to the cheerleader without looking at her.
"There was this other costume shop that opened up, and a lot of other people said they got their costumes from there. And I'm pretty sure Xander and the others got theirs from there too."
Slowly, the three standing men turned to stare at the seated teen girl. That was actually worse than them ignoring her as though she weren't smart enough to contribute. But she was a Chase for crying out loud, and Chase's loved attention. She just wasn't a hundred percent that this was the good kind.
"Cordelia," Giles spoke gently, "It's very important, but can you, please, remember the name of the new costume store? If we know who's doing this, then we can stop it and turn everything and everybody back to normal."
She stared off into space for a few seconds, her brain overloaded as it was, it did not allow itself to become distracted by its normal thoughts, instead just pulling up the information instantly so it could go back to processing everything.
"Hmm. Cute," Morgana commented with a twisted smirk as she gazed upon the dilapidated storefront, the hand-painted sign over the top proclaiming the name of the residence and the owner as "ETHAN'S", and yet the dark sorceress was referring to the abysmally pitiful wards surrounding it that couldn't keep out a Ninth Circle demon, let alone her army of dark creatures. There was an interesting twist to the crafting and skill involved in it, and that's what made it cute. Like suddenly seeing a toddler walk up with a handwritten piece of parchment of his own name on it.
How the humbling creator of such wards and the fashioner of the spell of chaos came to be in possession of her very /own/ Talisman of Empowerment was a riddle for the ages. It was also something she would very shortly demand the answer to, even if it came from the mage's dying brain as she ripped it from his skull with her bare hands. Having the body of a Slayer made such a feat more than a mere threat.
"While normally I'm all for enjoying the intimidation of pathetic creatures, I am unfortunately on somewhat of a constrained time limit," the Dark Sorceress commented to her minions. Then she looked directly at her Banshee and commanded, "Bring it down. Leave as much of it standing as you like, but don't stop until he's out here on his knees before me. Understand?"
The wraith-like creature just nodded, a gaze of pure adoration shining from the redhead's eyes. Then it stepped to the forefront of her army, facing the shop, seemed to take a very deep breath, and then she screamed.
It started as it usually had this evening so far, like some kind of jet engine powering up, but then it kept getting louder and louder, and even while it was still getting louder, ripples and waves of sonic energy exploded out from the Banshee towards the costume shop. First, the windows cracked, then shattered, even the glass that was inside became little more than the sand it was made from. Then the building started to shake as it's foundations, structural support, and even the material the walls were made out of became loose and threatened to topple itself within minutes.
Morgana finally cut the Banshee off with a silent motion as the front door finally opened from the inside and the proprietor stumbled outside, holding his ears, which along with his nose and mouth, were profusely bleeding.
"Ah, you must be the owner of this fine and upstanding establishment," Morgana commented with a touch of humorous sarcasm. "It's not too late, is it? I do hope we are not disturbing you in any way."
Ethan Rayne just collapsed to his knees in front of the Dark Sorceress and passed out cold.
"I didn't think so," Morgana smiled to herself and entered the building, the Banshee and Drusilla dutifully following behind as several of the 'army' picked up the chaos mage and dragged him inside.
Once they had the chaos mage strapped down to the counter, several of the demons holding him for good measure, Morgana slowly walked around the table with the glowing bust on it, slowly analyzing every aspect to it as well as several things that weren't immediately obvious about it. Drusilla however was hovering rather discomfortingly around Ethan's head, paying a little too much attention to his jugular.
Gasping and silently begging not to be killed, Ethan stuttered out, "H-h-h, How m-may I h-hel-help you... Milady?"
Morgana's fist was buried in the chaos mage's gut faster than he could blink, leaving him curled up on the table with the wind knocked out of him. The demons holding him down finally let him go and he fell pitifully to the floor with a heavy thud.
"Was it something I said?" he managed to squeak out.
"More like something you did, you pitiful excuse for a practitioner!" raged the ancient sorceress. "You do not speak unless spoken to, and when I ask you a question, you will give me the truthful answer IMMEDIATELY!"
"Yes, my Queen," groveled Ethan.
Morgana glared down upon the worm, but did not say anything else for the moment. Pacing for a few moments, she finally asked, or rather commanded him to answer, "Where and how did you come to be in possession of my amulet?"
Ethan hesitated, and was promptly kicked in the gut by Drusilla while the Banshee clawed his scalp and dragged his head upwards. Knowing he'd be punished further for lying or even not answering at all, he did the only thing that he could and told her the truth. About how he'd tried to backtrack the previous owners, but was stonewalled after learning it had been received from some thieves about thirty years ago, and from there it had changed hands from pawn shop to dirty dealer to the costume owner he'd swindled all of his Halloween cache from. And then how the girl, the Slayer of all people, had swindled it right from under his nose.
"And once that happened, you brought forth Arthur," she prompted him. He hastily nodded his head.
"Tell me," she coldly commanded as she fiddled with the amulet around her neck, "were you aware that this is not a replica of my amulet, but my /actual/ empowerment talisman, that was once around my neck several centuries ago?"
"Y-y-yes," he stuttered out, petrified with fear.
"Did you try to use it yourself?"
Ethan's reaction was too immediate and too passionate to be anything but the truth. "What? No! Absolutely not! Not even I'm that bloody stupid! Once I knew what that was, I made sure nobody would even think to glance at it... still don't know how the bloody /Slayer/ of all people noticed it at all."
When he revealed that bit of information, Morgana froze in her spot and frowned. Then she turned to her horde and commanded them to fan out and establish a perimeter so she would know when Arthur showed up. Then she went into the shop and found a mirror, one that amazingly was still whole, despite the Banshee's earlier sound wave attack.
She stared at the reflection for several long minutes before finally whispering to the girl she was possessing, "Hello Guinevere. Fancy meeting you here."
Arthur was not having a good night. Although it could be argued, being returned to life in a body that was in it's prime, continuing the good fight, no matter at what capacity, would make up for any faults, it still boiled down him fighting his half-sister, again, saving the world from being drawn into an active Hellmouth, /again/, and fighting an overwhelming army with staggering numbers with little more than a band of good friends, /AGAIN/!
Monotony is the purgatory of the living, as they say.
There was also the fact that, once again, they were racing through the streets being lead around by the general direction he had to work with, Cordelia's knowledge of Sunnydale streets, and Giles logical approach of finding the shop's address and going directly to it. Oh, and let's not forget that Cordelia was whining and complaining, again, the Soldier Cordelia called Larry was starting to act paranoid all over again, and Giles was practically fawning all over him.
He half suspected he could tell the man almost anything and he would believe it straight away on blind faith. That kind of devotion was neither something that Arthur appreciated nor enjoyed.
"We are getting close," he told them as he felt another pulse of the chaos magic.
"Should be just past the next intersection," Giles replied.
"Shouldn't we be worried about some kind of ambush?" Larry asked out loud.
"With Morgana, even in the heat of battle, it is wiser to be more... polite rather than defensive. Besides, we would have been attacked seven times over already if she wished to harm us, or stop us," Arthur answered.
"So... what's the plan?" the soldier finally questioned.
"We stop Morgana," came the short reply.
"Not helpful," he hissed back.
"Shit," Larry cursed. "I /hate/ improvising!"
"Why am I coming along again?" Cordelia interrupted.
"Because you refused to stay in the Library," Giles answered.
"Like I'm just going to sit around waiting for the Army of Darkness to come pouring out of the walls?" she exclaimed.
"Well, considering that we're actually walking straight into the heart of that... army of demons, one might think you would prefer staying in a place of relative safety in comparison," the Librarian logically argued.
"How come we can't just go hide some place until this all blows over?" she asked.
They all three just stopped, turned and gave her a look. Grimacing she just nodded and said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's the right thing to do and all that crap. The right thing is so overrated."
They turned down the street and came around the bend, and then immediately dove back for cover and somebody put their hand over Cordelia's mouth. Just in case.
It seems they'd found Morgana's army, as well as where she was at the moment. Slowly creeping around, Arthur spied the outer guards and the bulk of the costumed demonic army was standing in front of and around a specific shop along the street. It looked like it had just been through a hurricane or something, with the broken windows and damaged walls. Taking a look at the fallen sign, the once King of England confirmed that it was the same costume shop Cordelia had mentioned earlier.
Moving back to the shadows, he told the others.
"It is indeed our destination. I can sense through Excalibur that the source of the chaos magic is originating from that location," Arthur confirmed. "Now comes the time for improvisation. And getting in, past all of the guards, and stopping both the spell, and Morgana. Hopefully by doing the first, it will stop the latter."
"We hope," Larry clarified. Arthur just nodded.
They all stood there for about thirty seconds before Cordelia asked sarcastically, "Any suggestions on how we do that?"
Arthur looked thoughtful for a moment, right before a wide grin spread across his face. Then he turned to look straight at Cordelia. Larry looked back and forth between Arthur and Cordelia, right before the lightbulb went on over his own head and his gaze too settled upon the urban princess. Giles started off glaring at her, but the look quickly shifted to thoughtful, then to deviously mischievous, pausing briefly at scandalized, before settling firmly on his 'Watcher' face as Buffy called it.
"NO!" she almost screamed. "Whatever the /HELL/ it is, NO!!"
"Cordelia," Arthur softly spoke to her.
"NO!!" she protested once more.
"I want you to scream as loud as you possibly can, right now," he told her.
"Huh?" Cordelia was perplexed.
"I want you to take a very deep breath, and then scream as loud as you can, for as long as you can hold it. Then keep screaming," he told her.
"I thought the plan was stealth?" she asked.
"It was," Giles explained. "Now the plan is for a distraction, so that Arthur can slip in behind the army and confront Morgana. When you scream, all of the monsters and demons will be drawn to this location like bees to honey. And if you'll look behind you, you'll see that we've already attracted some of the demons attention."
Eyes bugging out, Cordelia spun around, saw some half-pint sized thing with green scales, horns, and blood red eyes. She didn't bother looking to the men to protect her, she just took a very deep breath, and then screamed.
Morgana, Drusilla and the Banshee all looked up as they heard a woman's scream coming from the street. Morgana arched an eyebrow when she noticed the Banshee develop a look of jealous anger on her porcelain smooth face, but paid it no mind.
"Arthur always was one for an unusual execution, especially during sieges," she said aloud to no one in particular.
"Oooh, so much to do, so very much time to do it in," Drusilla started to sway back and forth to some unheard melody. "Best of friends we'll be. Mrs. Edith will go away and never return tonight. I would miss her terribly, but I'll have new friends, and Mummy and Daddy will come back some day."
"Yes, not much time to complete the spell then," Morgana dryly commented after Drusilla's rant. Turning back to the bound and gagged Ethan, she said, "Let's continue then, shall we? It's not easy doing rushed blood magic you know. But using that of the magically inclined is a nice way of doing that. Now hold still, because this is /really/ going to hurt."
The Dark Sorceress then proceeded to slowly drain Ethan's blood into an earthen bowl and using a ceremonial silver blade, carved out his liver, kidneys, heart, eyes, tongue, and a few other nasty bits not worth mentioning. The ritual spell took barely five minutes to complete after all the...components were gathered, and just in time too.
Arthur Pendragon kicked down the back door the moment after Morgana had banished the body into it's basic elements, a full minute after the spell completed.
Arthur stuck to the shadows, striking down anything deemed a threat, and using his mace, in his left hand, to club anything that was a threat, but was only a transformed human instead of a true demon. After Cordelia's scream, there was a bum rush from the front of the costume shop as half the demons there scurried for their location. Fortunately, thanks to some quick thinking by Giles and Larry, by the time the demons got there, they no longer were.
Arthur had split up and in the confusion made his way across the street and into a deserted alley without being seen. Cordelia, Giles and Larry had fortuned upon a sewer entrance and managed to hide away as all the demons started clamoring for the woman that screamed. In the confusion, thankfully, none of those with enhanced senses could even begin to detect the three in hiding.
It took him the better part of fifteen minutes to navigate the back alleys and shadowy alcoves, but eventually, Arthur did make it to the back entrance of the costume shop, and the source for the chaos spell that was affecting everyone like this. He did not hesitate to kick down the door and rush in, Excalibur drawn and ready for anything. Although, he had to admit, Morgana calmly waiting for him with her Banshee and a female vampire was pretty low on that list.
Still, that's what he saw. Morgana even had her hands clasped in front of her, like a demure lady of the courts! It was... unnerving, to say the least.
Looking around at a glance, Arthur noticed that the ritual site where the spell of chaos was originating from was closer to him, the table holding only a bust of some Roman deity. In fact, Morgana was on the opposite side of the room with her two courtesans, and as far away from the table as she could be and still remain in the room.
"What's going on here, Morgana?" he demanded.
"Why Arthur," she slowly looked up at him and smiled, "what makes you think that something is the matter?"
Arthur's eyes went wide and his limbs numb, so much so he nearly dropped Excalibur to the floor. "G-g-Guinevere?" he rasped.
"Surprised me too," Morgana admitted. "To find myself not only with the fortune of inhabiting the body of the current Slayer, but that she should be the physical reincarnation of the Christian bitch that stole you from me and then cheated on you with your best friend no less! Don't you just /love/ irony, Arthur?"
"We are /not/ starting that argument again!" the Once and Future King warned her, raising Excalibur to point at the trio of dark creatures once more. "Besides, I think that it is safe to say that whatever our... relationship... before, you effectively destroyed it with the actions you took following it."
The young, familiar face scrunched up in annoyance, but Morgana did not protest his statement, nor did she try to silence him at all. Finally, she said to him, "I made mistakes, Arthur. And I am more than paying the price for them. You forget our beliefs, brother. Ever mind the Rule of Three, three times what thou givest returns to thee, this lesson well, thou must learn, thee only gets what thou dost earn. What I did in life, and after, the consequences of each spell came back upon me three times over in death. And look at you. You've been reincarnated, alongside the bitch, who just so happens to be the Slayer! Well, it may cost me another nine hundred years of purgatory, but I have just changed the scales. Just enough to make things more... interesting."
"What did you do?" he demanded, taking a step forward.
"Break the bust and find out," she challenged him. "That is how to end the spell, you know. The only way. If dawn breaks and the people have still been changed, there will be... after-effects. Changes left over. Personalities, demonic possession, maybe even the bodies themselves will remain changed. That's the thing about Chaos. You never know what you may get."
Arthur scowled as she smirked at him. There was really nothing else to do. She controlled the army of demons and costumed children. If they were all still changed come morning, those costumes may no longer /be/ costumes, and here she was, openly giving him the opportunity to end it and save them all. But at what cost?
"What did you do?" he asked, softer this time, but still holding Excalibur out.
"Break the statue and find out," she repeated.
"WHAT DID YOU DO?!!" he roared, causing the three women to flinch.
"I cast a ritual spell," Morgana finally answered, seeing that Arthur was not to be messed with at this time. "After my parting from this plane, the girl, Guinevere's reincarnation, will retain all of my memories and knowledge and power. When I return to Purgatory on the Ghost Roads, I will no longer have my magic to defend me. I will be fully absorbed by the Roads and enter into the natural cycle of reincarnation. It is why you and her have been brought back in this age, while Merlin and I have not. We're too powerful to give up who we were. Now... she will be too."
"Undo it!" he ordered.
"It CAN'T /BE/ UNDONE!" she screamed back at him, tears leaking from her eyes. "Don't you see? I'm tired, Arthur. I want to rest. This is the only way I can."
"By burdening some poor girl with the knowledge of your crimes?" he argued.
"And what do you think you yourself have done?" she sneered. "Excalibur is, by far, more powerful than Merlin or I could ever be! When you summoned it to your hand, as is your right, the boy that you now possess became it's next wielder! He will possess all of your knowledge and memories once you leave, same as this girl here will with me! You never realized it, did you? You weren't summoned from the past, Arthur! You possess the body of that boy the same way I possess the body of this girl!"
Stunned, Arthur retreated a step, his shock evident on his face. "What...?" Suddenly a lot of what Cordelia and Giles had been going on about was making a lot more sense now.
"So," she taunted him one final time, "break the bust. And see what happens."
He couldn't move. If it was true, then... what? What could he do? What would happen? If he truly was dead and not summoned from the past... then what? What?
"Fine," Morgana snapped at him, "if you won't do what is necessary, then I will!"
With that, she flung her arm out and a bolt of lightning struck out and exploded against the bust of Janus, shattering it into a million fragments. A millisecond after, a wave of magic rippled out from that point in space/time. As the wave passed, the Banshee screamed, before fading away into mist, Drusilla flinched, and both Arthur and Morgana stumbled as they left behind Xander and Buffy.
"Oh god!" the teens exclaimed, right before they both keeled over and emptied their stomachs of all contents. Seeing that her new friends were not in the mood for her company right now, Drusilla calmly left the shop, smiling the whole way and even pranced a little bit as she made her way back to the warehouse hideout. She had some cleaning up to do.
Outside the shop, things were just as, if not even more confusing. Almost like a wave of energy had exploded from the broken building, those that had been transformed into their costumes reverted to their true selves. Unfortunately, at the same time, all the real demons and vampires that had been under Morgana's spell of influence 'woke up' and were no longer docile guards and soldiers.
Giles watched as Larry shook himself, his guns transforming back into plastic toys, and knew the spell had ended. Then, he remembered the children, and that there weren't just costumed demon kids out there.
Running from their hideout, Giles picked up a fortunate piece of driftwood and used it to stake the real vampire that had been sneaking up on their hiding place in the sewer below the shop. Without pausing, he climbed back out and ran out of the alley, halfway expecting to see a slaughter in progress. What he did see, he did not expect.
Drusilla was standing there in the doorway of the shop and glaring, game face on, at all the vampires and demons, growling subtly so they all knew that she was the boss. For the moment at least.
"We're leaving," she announced. She didn't threaten them, she didn't order them, she didn't even have to growl at them any more. She just said it and expected it to happen.
One or two demons looked to argue and one vampire licked his chops while staring down at a crying child. Drusilla calmly turned and cast out her hand. That vampire, and a couple others and a demon or two, all collapsed into final death, wooden stakes and even a shard of glass or two silencing them with wounds to the chest without hesitation or mercy.
"We're leaving," she said once more, then turned and walked away, not turning back this time. Soon after, all the vampires followed her, while the demons shrugged at each other and went into the shadows to make their own exits.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Giles turned as Cordelia and a freaked out Larry came up behind him. "It would seem that all is well that ends well," he commented. "Let's go find Buffy and Xander." Cordelia nodded, while Larry didn't seem to hear and walked off in a daze, not really paying attention to where he was going.
They found Buffy and Xander in the back of the shop, the ritual's... remains beside them and both heaving or recovering from earlier messes. Both looked up when Giles and Cordelia walked in, a mixture of relief, embarrassment, and trepidation marking their expressions.
"I trust that you two are, well, more yourselves?" Giles asked as he helped Buffy to her feet and Cordelia went to Xander's side.
Buffy pulled off her brunette wig and nodded, still looking a bit queasy. "Yeah, I'm me again. I... I still remember everything though. I-I c-can't believe that I... that she could... Oh God!" She hurried over to a bucket and crouched over it, coughing and retching for a minute. Xander looked about to join her, but he was more freaked out than disgusted and horrified.
Because he was still holding the English longsword that was glowing a soft blue, pulsing in time with his heartbeat... and it was singing to him too, which helped a lot in controlling his gag reflex.
"It will be all right, Buffy," Giles assured his Slayer. "It will be all right. We're here for you, and I assure you, nothing that happened was your fault. None of it. It was all Morgana Le Fey, so you don't have to worry yourself over..."
"No," she gasped, coming up from her bucket, "You don't understand. I don't just remember this night. I remember everything! /Every/thing about her life! I know what she went through, what she's lived through and what it all means! I remember how it /felt/! And I kind of liked it."
"Hey, uh, guys?" Xander interrupted the drama fest. "Where's Willow?"
"Uh... oh..." Buffy's eyes went wide in shock.
"Mistress?" an elfin redhead gasped as she arched up from death, still beneath a sheet.