Far from Sunnydale, as time passed, the following events took place:

Dr. Margaret Walsh carefully put down the phone and stared at the far office wall. Only then did she allow herself a rare moment of actual rage to show on her otherwise normally icy features.

*MORE delays over something so….so ridiculous as a small town politician running off with the city treasury?!*

She looked down to notice her hands were resting flat on top of her desk and slightly trembling, the equivalent of someone else's temper tantrum accompanied with screaming at the top of their lungs.

The woman concentrated on quieting both her mind and body, until her entire being resembled a statue, something she truly wished for during her few flights of fancy. No messy emotions, glands, and thoughts to cause disorder and untidiness. Pure logic, that was the perfect goal.

*Well, at least until the investigation is over by the authorities, you can use the time to further develop your plans.*

A malevolent gleam appeared in the woman's eyes, as she turned to her computer keyboard and tapped her entry into her most heavily encrypted files. Her fingers stroked the keys almost sensually, as none had ever done to her, while she brought up a document that was labeled with a single one-word title:


The vampire waited patiently as his master finished draining the teenage girl. It took only seconds for the formerly dark skin of the Slayer to turn as grey as the wall shackles that were the only thing holding up the body of the dying woman, as the last of her life slipped away.

Turning away from the corpse, the massive monster wiped its bloody mouth with an arm that ended in a hoof, turning this gesture into a waved command to approach him, which was promptly obeyed by the minion. All of the master vampire's underlings were taught by brutal lessons into instant compliance, as they learned it was extremely unwise to ever displease Kakistos, who had become a vampire of legendary viciousness nearly a thousand years ago in a Mediterranean land.

Coming to a stop in front of his superior, the vampire bowed, and keeping his eyes downcast, he reported, "Lord, the rumors appear to be true. While it is unclear if the controller of the Hellmouth is dead, removed, or absent, he is evidently missing and no longer in a position to dominate that wellspring of power."

"To kill or bring down that young pup would have taken immense magic. What news of whoever carried out such a feat?" rumbled Kakistos, his craggy features scowling.

His gaze fixed to the floor, the lesser vampire wished for a moment that he could still sweat. Uncertainty irritated his master, and those who brought him incomplete information to have Kakistos' state of mind change to that emotion risked needing a broom and dustpan for the disposal of their remains. On the other hand, lying to an eight-centuries-old vampire could result in him trying out in alphabetical order all the forms of torture the demon had learned in its entire existence upon the liar.

Trying to be as truthful as possible, the minion steadily spoke. "During the time period the Mayor vanished, extreme amounts of Chaos magic were sensed around Sunnydale, finishing when the holiday also came to an end."

"Holiday?" huffed the Greek vampire, not sure if he should take offense, but giving his underling a deadly glare.

"The events took place on October thirty-first, called in this land Halloween, which in turn came from the European festival known as Samhain."

"Ahhhhh…." meditatively growled Kakistos, his attention caught by this. "The time between the seasons of light and dark, when the veils between realities grow the thinnest they may ever do so…. Beings and aspects of power can be summoned or invoked then, if you dare, though there is often a cost or price more than anyone is willing to pay. Even such as we must be on our guard then, which the Mayor undoubtedly failed to do. The fool."

The vampire listening to these words maintained his subservient posture, though he inwardly felt a surge of relief. There had been evident interest in his master's voice at the end of his discourse, which lead to the next command.

"Look at me, to hear and obey."

The minion felt only the tiniest flicker of fear as he raised his head, knowing he had not displeased his superior, but still nervous about whatever would come.

The blaze of pure evil in his master's eyes was the brightest the lesser vampire had ever seen, as Kakistos ordered in his voice of rock being ground to powder, "Bring together all who are bound to me, to make plans to go to the Hellmouth and seize it for the glory of Kakistos. What again was the name of that town or place?"

"Sunnydale, my lord."

An expression of disgust appeared on the face deformed by centuries of vampire existence, as the monster contemplated a human village clearly named for the source of light over a lowland valley. Hiding any possible concern over the one thing that could still destroy him, Kakistos growled, "When I triumph, that shall be the first thing to be changed."

Faith Lehane woke up screaming and thrashing, trying to escape from glowing yellow eyes, deformed demonic faces lunging at her throat, and fangs tearing into that part of her body as her life clearly ended.

As the sounds of things shattering and breaking filled the air, a ceiling bedroom light came on. Standing by the opened door, a woman in her late thirties dressed in a nightgown and with disheveled hair, holding a small crossbow in one hand while still pressing the light switch with her other hand, Linda Campbell watched in horror for a few moments, before shouting, "Faith, wake up!"

However, it was only until a bed frame strained beyond endurance finally collapsed, dumping a barely-awake girl to bounce on her mattress, joined by the remains of her headboard, that a just in her teens girl finally realized where she was.

Wild eyes darted around the room, to recognize where she'd found a place off the streets, desperately glad to have food and warmth, despite whatever might need to be done to earn it. Faith had been so cold and hungry that she hadn't really cared if the next stop would have been a brothel when the woman had found her and told there was somewhere she could stay.

Weeks of suspicion finally eased into the young girl understanding that her rescuer was just another nutjob, exactly like those who came around the streets preaching the Lord Jesus Christ or Allah or the books of Mormon would save those who would listen. At least Linda had been more imaginative about it, with the Council and demons and Slayers and Potentials and all that crap. Faith had learned nearly from birth to keep her face blank and pretend to agree until her lecturer had been satisfied and provided the goods.

In this case, it was food (as much as she wanted!), a bed (all hers! nobody sharing! Linda had pulled the weirdest faces when she'd been bluntly asked if Faith had to sleep with her), clothes (not exactly her style, but they were warm and clean, so okay), and most important of all, money. A minor stipend had been given to her, and she'd kept every cent of it and also remembered where Linda stashed her own funds. A few more months, if nothing happened and it got warmer outside, she'd split with everything she could grab and sell. In the meantime, she'd pretend to pay attention to what Linda was telling her. Anyways, the martial arts lessons, even with the stakes and crossbows, were kinda interesting and potentially useful.

Now, of course, it had all gone to shit.

From the wreckage of her bed, Faith stared hopelessly at Linda, and said quietly, "Alla that stuff you told me, 'bout the Slayers and vampires and girls never seein' their twentieth birthday, it was the real deal?"

Linda opened her mouth, and then decided to say something else, staring at Faith's desolate features. Gently, she told the young girl, "I never lied to you, Faith."

The teenager slowly fell back into her bed lying on the floor, and just unseeingly looked upwards at the ceiling. Linda tentatively stepped into the room, trying not to trip over the wreckage, and stood by the mattress, until she impulsively sat down on it, by Faith's body.

Faster than the human could react, the newly-Called Slayer sat up in a blur, to wrap her arms around Linda and put her head on the shoulder of the older woman. The Watcher remained frozen, until she felt the body hugging her beginning to shake and liquid dripping onto her shoulder. There were no actual noises, though. The young girl desperately seeking reassurance had long ago learned to never show sounds of weakness to those predators around her.

Linda Campbell put her own arms around Faith Lehane, and just held her, despite how the Slayer's grip was going to leave bruises on the older woman's body that would last for weeks.

In a remote monastery, two monks looked down at the ancient manuscripts. One of the monks spoke.

"Are the portents still ominous, brother?"

"More than they have ever been, my friend. We must prepare now, to safeguard the Key from--"

The other monk was now interrupted by the first speaker.

"Do not say the name!"

Yet, the phrase still escaped from the monk's lips.


Deep inside the Hellmouth itself, something stirred.