Point of Focus
Copyright May 1999
Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.
Prologue and Epilogue take place after the events of "Doppelgängland" but before those of "The Prom".
Chapters One, Three and Four take place in a time parallel to that of "The Wish."
Chapter Two takes place in a time parallel to that of "School Hard".
– April 1999 –
It was a closed room, lit only by the candles placed at the points of the pentagram. A soft sheen of sweat glistened on the temples and upper lip of the young woman who knelt in its center, her eyes fixed without focus and her mouth moving in the words of a language which had been ancient before Latin was born. Obscure runes limned her forehead, cheeks and the backs of her hands; at her left, nameless herbs smoldered in a shallow bowl of cut glass, on the side of which the words WELCOME TO SUNNYDALE were inscribed in black and gold; at her right, a toad had been neatly eviscerated and various organs arranged at five points about its head and feet.
Preparation for this ritual had required weeks of painful research. Her schooling in mystical practices, brief as it had been, had ended over a millennium ago; after her elevation by the elder demon D'Hoffryn, she had needed no spells or charms, her power had surged out from her inmost essence, crystallized into a single point of occult force. Still, eleven hundred years as the living retribution of betrayed women had given her an instinctive awareness of the rhythms of dark magicks. That, and her dim recollections of the vengeance curses of her girlhood, had been supplemented by recent urgent study, driven by the determination to regain her former status.
This was her third attempt. First she had begged D'Hoffryn for reinstatement, and been rejected with dismissive scorn. Then she had sought the help of a neophyte Wiccan (an infant, an ephemeral, barely past the level of party tricks, yet with power that insultingly surpassed her own in the state she now occupied). This time she would rely on none but herself. She was deep in the seeking trance now, her respiration at less than two breaths to the minute and her pulse rate in the low twenties. As her physical senses retreated from external stimuli, her mind reached out, tracing delicately into the lines of her past.
It had been a mistake, she now knew, to attempt a retrieval spell. Even had her shaken companion not recoiled from the searing images which streamed from that snarled fold in time, the vessel she sought contained far too much mana for their feeble arts to have transported it back to her; it would have been like trying to pull an eighteen-wheeler from quicksand with a chain of paper clips. Her present approach was both more subtle and more direct, a manipulation not of physical forces but of the lighter, infinitely more malleable currents of thought.
In the mind behind her unseeing eyes, a scene grew slowly, sharpening as remembered details accreted to it. A sun-drenched schoolyard; a tall, dark-haired girl with chiseled cheekbones and a matte complexion, in a close-fitting dress of vibrant electric blue; a pendant on a finely wrought chain, silver and onyx resting in the hollow of a flawless throat. Slim fingers touched it as the dark-haired girl's lips bent in petulant anger, and this was the moment!
Carefully now, carefully. It takes only a touch, but the touch must be perfectly directed, the borning inspiration diverted to a more convenient course. Fortunately, this one's mind would offer little resistance even if she were aware of the intrusion. The tiniest of nudges …
The scene twisted and blurred, and the watcher cried out silently. No! The girl's very pettiness was stronger than the will of her would-be controller, twitching the firming decision away from the safe, calculated path with impetuous vindictiveness. The interior tableau flared to unbearable intensity as Cordelia Chase said grimly, "It all started with her, they all think she's so special; I wish Buffy Summers wasn't the Chosen One!" And in the background a ghostly, gloating voice responded, Done.
Then it was gone, the last rich remembered echoes of Anyanka's power whisked into nothingness, and eighteen-year-old Anya was staring, fists clenched in frustration, at the guttering candles and the gutted toad.
"Oh, phooey," she said. "Now I have to clean up this crap."