Disclaimer: I do not own the Buffyverse. It belongs to Joss Whedon
Author's Note: This is a Medieval-AU of the Buffyverse. That said, I fully intend to keep the characters and premises in mostly similar niches, and of course with the same, as much as possible, personalities.
The Prophecies Cycle
Book I: The Red Moon Rises
When the moon hangs red in the sky
And the birds that once dwelled in the air no longer fly
He who was sealed away so long, shall once more awaken.
And his fractured followers, no longer shall be they be fallen
First they shall make the blood of Sineya's Brood flow like wine
And thus the Brood of Aurelius shall cleanse the Earth of the kine.
-The Fifth Prophecy of the Dark Oracle
Chapter 1: Astrological Signs
24 to 30 Days until the Red Moon
Wesley murmured the words necessary to momentarily disable the magical wards he'd paid to have put on his door. It had been expensive, but well worth the cost. He opened the door and stepped into his house. It wasn't a large structure – just a large main room dominated by bookshelves and a weapon's rack, and a small bedroom through a door on the far end. But it was large enough to suit his needs, and besides, he didn't spend much time here anyway. Few days a month at most. He closed the door behind him and spoke the set set of words that were keyed to his wards. These ones brought the wards back up.
There were a great many customs and practices of the Watchers that he had abandoned when he left the organization, and in the three years since, but one of the few that he hadn't abandoned was a sense of professional paranoia. When you fought vampires, demons and other associated forces of darkness on a regular basis – and especially if it was how you made your living – you couldn't be too careful.
Wesley took off his coat and draped it across the back of a chair. The room was dim – the windows were shuttered, and no candles or lamps were lit. Understandably, since he'd been gone for the last week and a half tracking down and then eliminating a nest of Hassack Demons out in the Kayden hills, some forty miles west. To remedy that, the demon hunter unshuttered two windows. Although he didn't take his sword – sheathed as it was in its scabbard – off, he did remove the throwing knives from his sleeves and the top of his left boot, putting them on the weapons rack that dominated one wall of the room once he had taken them out.
The question was, now what to do? He should probably stop by Rupert Giles's tower before the end of the day. They'd spoken before he'd left to deal with the Hassacks, and the older former Watcher had mentioned that he was researching something that might be fairly momentous, but that he needed 'more time'. Giles had asked for him to stop by once he'd gotten back from his hunt.
But first, Wesley decided he needed a drink. He made a point to not drink when he went out on a mission, but then, he wasn't on one now. It wouldn't do to show up at Giles's drunk – and he had no intention of doing so.
About a quarter of a small bottle of viscous bottom-shelf liquor later, Wesley was ready. He grabbed his coat and his knives again, and stepped out of the house.
As he did so, Wesley wrinkled his nose, reminded of another reason he preferred not to spend much time in this city, or his home in it. Cities and Towns in the Kingdom of Arenso stank. In all actuality, they fairly reeked, for unlike the cities and towns of the Britillian Archipelago, his homeland, there were no sewage systems, which made the stench unbearable at times, especially in summer months like these. He supposed it was possible to get used to it, if you spent enough time in the city, but Wesley preferred not to take the time to do that.
Thinking of his homeland made him think back to the circumstances that had led to him first meeting Rupert Giles. He'd been eight years old and just entering the Watcher's Academy when Rupert Giles – a Watcher in good standing from an old and respected family, even if he had a reputation for being a bit unorthodox – had had his famous – or infamous, perhaps – split with the Watcher's Council, the leaders of the Watchers of Britillia. Giles had disagreed profoundly with the Watcher's practices, traditions and policies, and was not afraid to step on the toes of everyone on the Council in an effort to open the Council's eyes to fundamental problems and inconsistencies.
To start with, and first and foremost, Giles had disagreed with the underlying elitism of the Watchers. Their membership was made up exclusively from old, established Watcher Dynasties, and members of the nobility in the Archipelago. That left them, Giles argued, with a skewed worldview, a limited pool to draw truly talented recruits from, and more importantly, led to the entanglement of the Watchers into the political and economic life of the Britillian Archipelago. In fact, as it stood, the Watchers were, in all but name, the governing body of the Archipelago, and that led to distraction from the mandate the Watchers had to combat the various, myriad supernatural evils of the world. And that entanglement also led to corruption, and divided the Council and the Watchers as a whole into factions based on political and economic power blocs, which in turn led to administrative paralysis that undermined the Watchers and prevented them from carrying out their mission to the best of their ability.
Furthermore, Giles had opposed the Watchers' long held position on the Daughters of Sineya, or as they were more colloquially known, Slayers. Denying the party line that Slayers were 'brutish inelegant thugs', Giles argued that denying Slayers from access to the Britillian Archipelago and thus the ability to fight supernatural evils there as well was simply a desire of the Council to retain a monopoly on the combat of the supernatural, for fear of losing their stranglehold on power. This, he argued, was negligence of the highest order, and led to the deaths of innocent humans across the islands.
Finally, and of particular importance to Wesley's future, he had pointed an accusatory finger at Quentin Travers, then a new up and coming and influential member of the Council from a family even older and more respected than the Giles Family or the Wyndam-Pryce Family. Rupert Giles had laid a laundry list of charges at Travers' feet, ranging from small things like simple corruption and dereliction of duty, but moving right up through theft, murder, murder of a Watcher, and most importantly, treason against the Council.
Rather than act on or investigate any of Giles' criticisms and charges, the Council had voted by a nearly unanimous margin to expel him, though Travers' motion to have him executed had been defeated handily as well.
At the time, of course, Wesley didn't have any idea that that was what had happened. Rather, he mused as he continued to make his way to the tower that Giles called home, all he'd known was that the heir to the Giles family had been expelled from the Watchers and banished from the Britillian Archipelago for 'disgracing the name of Watcher', to quote his father, one of the men who had voted for the expulsion of Rupert Giles, though not the execution.
Fast forward fifteen years. Wesley had graduated the Academy and was not a Watcher in good standing himself, with a string of successes in the field. Quentin Travers was now the Head of the Council, and Wesley was one of Travers' favorites among the younger generation. Travers' position had been quite secure, but the man had never been one to leave well enough alone, and there was one person in all the world that Travers' loathed and wanted dead more than just about anything. Rupert Giles.
Exile wasn't enough, and as long as his old accuser still lived, apparently Quentin Travers wasn't able to sleep at night. Or more likely, had a guilty conscience and wanted the one man who seemed to know what he'd been up to dead. Wesley still, at the time, wasn't aware of all the details, but, being a dedicated and thorough man, he had gone to the archives and examined the records of the Council's meetings and the expulsion of Rupert Giles, in an effort to get inside the mind of the man he'd been ordered to kill. What he'd found there – the charges, serious ones – made him think. Why, if Travers' was innocent, would be want Giles dead? He hadn't combined yet, but doubts had formed, combining with more general concerns about corruption and the other minor ills that seemed to be afflicting the Watchers.
He left that train of thought behind as he saw Giles' tower just ahead. From what he gathered, when Giles had arrived here in this city after his exile eighteen years ago, he'd bought the tower from the grandchildren of an local wizard of middling talent who had died a few months before his arrival.
Approaching the heavy oak door, Wesley knocked on it lightly three times. For a few moments there was no response or indication that he'd been heard, but then there were footsteps approaching the door from the other side, and a few moments after that the door swung open, revealing Giles on the other end.
"Oh, Wesley." Giles stepped aside to allow him not to enter. Despite the sun shining in the sky, he didn't actually invite Wesley to enter. While not quite as paranoid as Wesley, Giles was more cautious than perhaps necessary. Though people like them had a radically different definition of 'necessary caution' than the average person. "How did the hunt of the Hassacks go?" Giles asked once Wesley was inside, closing the door behind his fellow Britillian. He noted the older man had a concerned and distracted expression on his face, and was cleaning his spectacles, a nervous habit of his.
"As well as can be expected. They're all dead, and fortunately I didn't get seriously injured this time. A few scratches," He pulled up his sleeve to reveal the scratches, which were well on their way to healing after a week since they'd happened, "but nothing to write home about. You said you wanted to speak to me when I returned, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did. We should go up to the library, so I can show you the proof. If I'm right, then we are all in grave danger." Giles put his spectacles back on.
"Define grave." Wesley said, as he followed Giles up.
"Apocalypse level, I believe. Rivers of blood, hell on earth. Quite charmless, from the sound of it."
"That sounds pleasant." The library was lined entirely with shelves, crammed with old tomes, piles of parchment, ancient tablets, scrolls of parchment and a variety of other odds and ends, all with some fort of writing on them. Watchers, even ex-Watchers, were often pack-rats when it came to the written word. The only reason Wesley's home didn't resemble Giles' library is that the younger man gave most texts – especially the rare or powerful ones – to Giles for safekeeping.
Giles carefully dug through the piles of books, scrolls and parchments on the central table, looking for one in particular. As he looked, he started to speak. "Are you familiar with the vampire cult known as the Order of Aurelius?"
"The name sounds familiar, but I can't recall anything specific about it."
"Not surprising. They've not done much to distinguish themselves from run of the mill vampires in the last six centuries or so." Giles replied. He finally seemed to find what he was looking for and pulled a small, thin tome out from the stacks and piles on the table. "According to my research, it was a cult devoted to the Old Ones founded some nine hundred years ago by a vampire prophet named Aurelius. During his lifetime it was fairly small, but after his death at the hands of a Slayer, leadership of his cult fell to his childe, one Vigeous."
There was a name he recognized. "The Saint Vigeous?"
"The very same." Giles replied. "After ravaging points east, they entered up here, in Arenso. Vigeous's crusade was fortunately cut short before he could do much damage in their new locale by a internal power struggle, but about fifty years later another vampire, calling himself 'The Master', and claiming to be the eldest childe of Aurelius. He turned much of the eastern reaches of Arenso into a charnel house, and there are mentions of him attempting to open, or access something referred to in Ariscan's Commentaries as 'the maw of fire' – though I think my translation may be off – in an attempt to bring some or all of the Old Ones back. The Daughters of Sineya who had been gathering their forces and at least keeping the Aurelians at bay during this time, finally launched an all-out assault on this 'Master' at his main fortress, and while most of his inner circle was defeated, no matter how hard they tried...apparently they couldn't kill him. No matter how many times they staked him, or even set him on fire...he wasn't foolish enough to get in the sunlight, so eventually a coven aligned with the Slayers used a powerful ritual to seal him away in a pocket dimension or some sort. The surviving Aurelian vampires broke up into completing factions have been fighting eachother as much as anyone else in the six hundred odd years since."
"How does all this translate into impending apocalypse? It sounds as if this Order of Aurelius is no longer much of a threat, and as long as this Master is safely sealed-" Giles handed him the thin volume. "The Prophecies of the Dark Oracle?"
Giles nodded, "Specifically the fifth one."
Wesley carefully opened the book and paged through it to the fifth prophecy. He read it carefully, then looked up. "I'll give you that it certain seems to be talking about this 'Master', but the moon hasn't risen red, and we have no reason to believe that it will any time soon. So you must have more to go on, or you wouldn't be so concerned."
"Actually, we have every reason to believe that the sun will rise red within a month." Giles replied. He went over to a shelf and traced his finger along the spines of the books there until he found the one he was looking for. He pulled it off the shelf and thumbed through it. Wesley caught a glimpse the title – Tharingal's Astrology. "I was reading this when I started down this path of research. Here," he found the passage he was looking for and handed the book to Wesley, who closed the book on the Prophecies of the Dark Oracle and set it aside to accept the new book. "In that passage, Tharingal describes an astrological phenomenon known as the 'Red Moon', which happens once every six-hundred seventy three years. He provided the dates for last two known previous events, and includes his calculations for the next one. This is the right year, and if his calculations are correct, we have twenty seven days until a the Red Moon rises. I knew I'd heard reference to a 'Red Moon' in a prophecy somewhere, and that brought me to the Dark Oracle, and then the Order of Aurelius and this 'Master' character." Wesley set down the book, the same concerned and distracted expression on his face that Giles had had the entire time since Wesley had walked in.
"I've consulted other sources, and they're universal in their agreement about this 'Red Moon', and its imminency. There is some slight variation in the calculations about the exact date, though the widest differences amount to three days one way or the other, and as far as I can tell...The Master is going to return soon if nothing is done to prevent it, or if its possible to reseal him or perhaps actually kill him this time, there might be a way to prevent apocalypse even if he returns."
"You have informed the Daughters of Sineya?" Though they utilized and believed in prophecy as much as anyone else, and even had some seers, the Daughters would never think to consult or have copies on hand of the Prophecies of the Dark Oracle – the Daughters had been the ones to finally kill the Dark Oracle three hundred seventeen years ago. Which he'd of course predicted, in his 23rd Prophecy.
"I've sent a messenger to them with all this information. With luck they will still know the binding spell used in the first place, and how it might be reapplied, or refined to work again. But in the meantime, there is still more information to be gathered. I can't find any details about how his release, his awakening will actually happen. Will it simply be a natural result of the Red Moon? Will the Red Moon itself possess the necessary qualities to free him? Is there a ritual involved, that the Order of Aurelius must perform? We simply do not have enough information."
"But you have a solution." Wesley could tell from the man's expression that he was working up to something.
"I do. In my research of the Order of Aurelius, I've come across the name of a particular tome repeatedly – the Pergamum Codex. From what I can tell, it is essentially the holy book of the Aurelians. Including all the prophecies made by Aurelius. At the very least it might be able to give us some idea of what The Master has planned for once he gets released, if it comes to that."
"And where do you expect to locate one?"
"That's where you come in. I believe I have located one of the myriad splinter factions of the Order. From what I can gather – as I said, the Order has done little that is particularly noteworthy since the Master was sealed away – there are two major factions led by two children of the Master, a 'Darla' and a 'Luke'. The two of them tend to keep only a small collection of vampires around them as they move around to avoid drawing the attention of the Slayers, but they hold the allegiance of the various smaller and most of the more sedentary groups between them. There's an old castle some fifty miles north, just off the Old Trade Way, I believe that there are vampires living there, and that more importantly, they're vampires of the Aurelian persuasion. They would have a copy of the Pergamum Codex."
"You want me to go and get it?" Wesley wasn't that concerned with the possibility, he just wanted to confirm that that was indeed what Giles had in mind.
"How many vampires are we talking, do you think?"
"Honestly? I don't know. I doubt more then ten."
"Do you mind if I bring Gunn and Fred in to help?"
"Go ahead. An imminent apocalypse effects them as well." Giles replied.
Wesley nodded. "Well, then if there isn't anything else, I'll take my leave."
"Nothing else at the moment. But be careful Wesley."
"I will." Wesley went down the stairs and out of the tower. After a few moments thought, he decided to go see Fred and Gunn first. The inventor and alchemist Winifred and her husband Charles Gunn were both good friends and had been of great help in fighting the supernatural evils. Fred's inventions and overall ingenuity had been as helpful as Gunn's dedication and skill in battle in the fight.
It didn't take him long to enter Fred's shop. She sold a variety of mechanical devices and mechanical odds and ends. They didn't fly off the shelves, but they were also expensive enough that she didn't need to sell large numbers of them to make a decent living. He'd long since given up trying to figure out how the contraptions worked or what they did just by looking at them.
Fred looked up from the broadsheet was she was reading when she heard someone enter. Her expression brightened and she smiled. "Wes!" She got up from her chair. "You're back! You got the demons?"
Wesley nodded, smiling despite the grave news he'd just heard. There was something about Fred that just brightened your day. "They're dead." Then he sighed. "Actually, there's something a great deal more important than simple Hassack demons coming." He told her in a low tone. "Is Gunn here?"
"Yea. He's in the back. What's wrong."
"Its best if we talk about it away from the possibility of being overhead, and I'd rather just say it the once."
Fred nodded, then "Oh! Wait! Before we go in the back, there's something I need to show you." Before Wesley could say anything, she hurried over to one of the cabinets lining the back wall of the room and opened it. From it she removed some kind of metal wrist-guard, then slid it over her right arm, approaching him. "Stand back." Wesley obeyed immediately – he'd long since learned to do that when Fred demonstrated her inventions simply as a matter of course. Fred flicked her wrist and part of the wrist-guard detached and then slid out, segments locking together and becoming...a sword. "I call it a collapsible sword." She took another one out of the cabinet. "Gunn prefers his axe – I'm still working on how to do that, but I made another one for you. See, you can adjust the width of the wrist-guard here-" She was starting to babble.
"Fred." Wesley interrupted. "Breathe." Then he chuckled, as she stopped. "That...that is quite impressive. I'm quite grateful. But I really do need to talk to you and Gunn." He took the proffered device.
"Right." He followed Fred into the back, to the rooms where she and Gunn lived, behind the shop. Gunn looked up from the chess board he'd been apparently playing against himself with. Wesley smirked. He and Gunn played chess together often, and a slight majority of the games went to him, while that didn't lead to any particular animosity between them, Gunn, like any other person, really didn't like to lose.
"Very. If Giles is right, we may have an impending apocalypse on our hands." He detailed to them what Giles had told him. "He needs this Pergamum Codex if we're to make forward progress on how to stop the Master from rising or fulfilling is plans, whatever they are."
"Damn. You Britillians know how to do serious, don't you." He chuckled. "You know I'm always for killing some vampires." He looked at his wife. "Fred?"
The alchemist-inventor didn't need much time to decide. "I'm in. Great chance to field-test the collapsible sword as well."
"Excellent." Wesley said. "I suggest we leave at first light tomorrow."
"Sounds good to me." Gunn said, with Fred nodding along with him.