Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel the Series. I do own the original parts of the setting, all original characters, and all original ideas and plot points. If you don't recognize it, it's very likely mine (or you could just be remembering something from the show wrong.)
Thanks to Starway Man, my Beta.
The Prophecies Cycle
Book I: The Red Moon Rises
Chapter 16: A Motley of Events
18 to 24 Days until the Red Moon
Sunnydale Church, Sunnydale Town
Lordship of Sunnydale
"Look, Angel, the vampires are gone. They've all headed up north, and there's nobody left in this town to protect. The civilians are all either dead, or they've run away. The only people left around here are you, me, B and the witch-bitch over there." Faith gestured at the woman in question.
"Still as charming as ever, aren't you Faith?" Amy shot back at the dark-haired Slayer. "And I'm not entirely sure Angel qualifies as a person, technically speaking."
"He's more of a person than you are, witch-bitch." Faith replied, the venom clearly evident in her voice.
"Yes, Faith, very original with the name-calling. But the truth is, I AM a bitch - and proud of it." Amy pointed out calmly. "I'm also a bitch who can charbroil all three of you. So maybe you don't want to piss me off, hm?" Not that Buffy was in the church at the moment to hear the threat.
"And yet, you haven't done it. Or even tried to run after Buffy drafted you." Angel pointed out skeptically.
"Well, what can I say? I'm in a bit of transitional period at the moment. My previous employer is dead." Amy pointed out. "And I doubt that his heir is going to have the money to pay me for services rendered, once this is all over." Not after the vampires looted the castle's treasury. Amy knew they had done that, as she'd checked. "That means I'm going to have to find a new employer to pay the bills, sooner or later. And I'd prefer not having the Daughters of Sineya being out for my blood while I'm doing it. Time is money, after all."
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again. When you get thrown out of the coven for practicing dark magic, you shouldn't be able to go and get rich at a posh, cushy job. It's supposed to be a punishment!"
"Oh, yes, and of course - the people in this world just have to behave in the way you want them to? If I didn't know better, Faith, I'd think you're jealous." Amy replied, smirking. "Or were you wishing you could market your talents, the same way I do mine? We could make a good team, you and I. Slayer and Witch, for hire on retainer. I know quite a few nobles that would pay through the nose for a personal Slayer enforcer." Then she laughed. "And you're right; I have heard it before, from you. And I'm sure that when the red-headed bitch shows up with your reinforce-"
Amy's speech was interrupted by Faith lunging at her. But before the Slayer's fist could connect with the witch's face, Faith found herself lifted bodily off the ground and then flipped upside down as Amy turned her hand. The Daughter of Sineya found herself stuck with her head just a few inches above the ground.
"Ah, ah, ah." Amy tutted sternly. "None of that, now, Faith. Or the next time, I'll let you fall on your head." Out of the corner of her eye Amy saw Angel approaching her from the side. She held out her free hand towards him and the vampire stopped moving. " Come on, vampire. Just try it. I dareyou."
Angel suspected that the witch was far more willing to kill him, rather than Buffy or Faith. While it was true that neither of the two Slayers would just shrug and accept his destruction at Amy's hands, the ensouled creature had his doubts whether the leaders of the Agaden Temple would care enough about his demise to send out a call to arms for Amy's blood. If she killed Faith or Buffy, on the other hand...
Yes, it was one thing to slay the tamed, ensouled vampire affiliated with the Daughters of Sineya. It was another thing to kill an actual Daughter herself. If the Slayers knew you were responsible for such an act, they never stopped hunting you. Like Spike. Angel knew his grandchilde had slain at least two Slayers in his time. He also knew personally that the High Priestess Nikki Wood had sworn an Oath before Sineya to kill William the Bloody herself, or die trying. Angel himself had only escaped ritual execution because of his soul – Angelus had killed Slayers as well, though he had found maiming them beyond repair to be far more appealing, aesthetically, than just killing them.
"Amy-" Angel quickly cut himself off when he saw the witch's eyes go black.
"I wonder." Amy said slowly and thoughtfully. "How many times could I bounce your head off of the floor, before it cracked open like a melon?"
Faith forced out a laugh, masking just the slightest hint of fear that she felt. "And here I thought you said that you didn't want me and my sister Slayers out for your head on a pike."
"This thingBuffy always wanted to fuck doesn't exactly count. And you're just praying your little heart out that I meant that." Amy answered with a sneer. "And really, that is a good question. Am I going to kill you?"
"If you're gonna kill me." Faith shot back acidly. "Then can you please just go ahead and do it, and spare me the boring evil monologue?"
"It's just so funny, though, isn't it?" Amy went on, ignoring Faith's comment. "I mean, big, bad Faith Lehane hanging here upside down, at my mercy. You've developed quite the reputation for yourself since the old days, you know. Throughout the continent, you're known as the one who killed Kakistos. And the one who killed Balthazar and his minions, the El Eliminati. You and Buffy even destroyed the Glove of Myhnegon. And yet, I could kill you with a snap of my fingers!" Amy laughed cruelly. "I love it!"
For a change, Buffy didn't open with a quip or witty phrase as she arrived back in the church. She just threw a knife at Amy's back, after hearing that last sentence. Unfortunately, it was to no avail. The witch turned with preternatural speed and waved her hand, sending the knife spinning off to the side and into Angel's left arm. Or, at least, it would have ended up in Angel's arm had the vampire not sidestepped the errant weapon.
Unfortunately, by redirecting her attention to the dagger, Amy had to release her hold on Faith, causing the Slayer to fall to the ground in an unceremonious heap and hit her head on the cold, hard, stone floor. "Agggggh, that hurt!"
Amy's eyes returned to their natural coloration and she started to laugh, dark mirth evident in the sound. "You'll recover, Faith. And we'll have to do this again sometime, Buffy. Maybe next time, you'll even win the round." Still chortling, Amy retreated into a shadow-covered corner of the chapel.
"Hey!" Buffy demanded. "What is this? What, was all that some kind of sick game to you?" She angrily started to follow after Amy, but Angel put a hand on her arm gently to stop her.
"Don't. She's actually hoping you'll follow after her." The vampire counseled the young woman.
"She wants her skull smashed in?" Buffy demanded.
"She wants you to try. It'll give her the excuse she needs to be able to justify her actions, once the leaders at the Temple hear what happened. Don't you think Amy knows that?" Angel asked, as understanding finally began to dawn in Buffy's eyes and Faith heaved herself up off the floor, grumbling over how neither of them seemed to notice her head was bleeding from a minor cut.
16 to 22 Days until the Red Moon
"Events are moving more quickly than we anticipated."
"The prophecies of the Dark Oracle are indeed an unexpected addition to the situation."
"My seers assured me that we had decades, if not centuries, before we needed to worry about them."
"Naturally you had them killed?"
"Of course. The Black Thorn cannot accept failure, least of all from its seers."
"But yes. The new circumstances necessitate a change in strategy."
"Existing plans for dealing with current foes must be changed."
"Many things must be changed."
"Contingency plans must be changed."
"Targets must be changed."
"Allies must be changed.
"Pawns must be changed."
"The Red Moon is rising, yes, and so the Dark Oracle's prophecy regarding it and the Master is indeed coming into play. But we have no reason to believe that more of the Dark Oracle's prophecies will come to pass on a timescale relevant to us."
"The Seers agree. The vagaries of fate will bring more of his prophecies to the fore."
"Forgive my skepticism, but wasn't trusting the Seers what got us into this mess in the first place?"
"These are different Seers."
"The future is to be forged by us, not to be written by seers, oracles and prophets. We are the Black Thorn, and we are the agents of destiny."
"Prophecy is a weapon, to be used like any other."
"Then how do we use this one? How do we use the upcoming prophecies of the Dark Oracle to our advantage, as weapons to achieve our ends?"
"Do we even know which ones are coming next?"
"My question exactly."
"One of your questions, you mean. Of us all, you have always been the most skeptical of prophecy."
"I trust what I can see, feel, and destroy. My armies have served the Black Thorn more effectively than your mysticism."
"And how do your armies know who to target? The Black Thorn is a collective whole. Your armies are no more the cause of our success than my mystics."
"Or my agents, spies and operatives. We are three in one. We are the Black Thorn."
"We are the Black Thorn."
"We are the Black Thorn."
"It is time for the meddlers to be removed. The Master is simply the start. The Eye must be closed."
"The Eye is the greatest meddler of them all."
"More so than Him?"
"Indeed. The Eye must be brought low. And It will destroy itself, with its own weight."
"Then why are you proposing we take action?"
"Because self-destruction requires a little push."
"And what do you propose we use, as this push?"
"The man of the tower."
"That is a foolish proposition."
"Not at all. We let the Eye do it itself."
"Conceivable. How do you propose it do what it has not done, nor attempted for so long?"
"The Black Thorn facilitates all."
"Then it is resolved? The Tower will bring low the Eye."
"It is resolved."
"It is resolved."
15 to 21 Days until the Red Moon
Temple of Sineya
"The tidings are not good. I have been unable to determine any way to restore the bindings on the Master, should he escape." Nikki Wood, High Priestess of the Agaden Temple, looked up at Janna Kalderash, the chief witch of the coven based at the Agaden Temple. "I cannot find any way to recast them, either. I can't find the original spell that was used."
"What do you mean, you can't find it?" Nikki demanded of the witch.
"I mean that the binding spell is nowhere to be found in our records. I mean that we have no idea what spell was used to bind and seal away a vampire of the Master's power. I mean that should that monster escape his prison, there is no way to put him back in whatever hole he was stuck in before. I mean that if and when he gets loose, our only option will be to destroy the Master using more traditional methods."
"Which is an impossible task, if the histories are to be believed." Nikki pointed out dryly.
"Then don't let him escape." Janna suggested. "Prevent his children from completing the ritual!"
"So you have made some progress on that front, at least?" Nikki asked sarcastically.
"Indeed." Janna opened a book to facing sketches and handed it to Nikki. One sketch was of a woman, and labeled 'Darla' and the other was of a man and labeled 'Luke'. "Darla and her brood we are already familiar with, but the other still-at-large childe of the Master is Luke. He's never come to the attention of the Agaden Temple, before."
Wonderful. Nikki set the book down, gesturing for Janna to go on.
"From the best we can figure, the way that the Master is going to be freed is going to draw on a rather obscure ritual. It is only possible because of the Red Moon. When the moon rises red, it brings with it immense magical power – particularly of the darker shades of magic. The intent is to use the magic of the Red Moon to transfer the power of the blood drained by Luke, Darla or both in that night, under specific ritual circumstances, to the Master, thus giving him enough energy to break the bindings himself."
"So, in other words, you're saying that if we kill both Darla and Luke, then there is no ritual." Nikki pointed out the obvious.
"Effectively, yes." Janna confirmed. "But we have to be sure-"
The magic user was interrupted when the door was opened, and a young red-haired Slayer quickly walked in. Janna didn't recognize this one's face. Probably one of the newer ones recently out of training and newly flushed with their full power, given how enthusiastically she'd opened the door.
Fortunately, all doors in a Temple of Sineya were more than capable of withstanding the strength of a Slayer. It saved a lot of time and money for all concerned.
"Madame High Priestess." The Slayer started. "If you will forgive the interruption..."
"Go ahead, Vi." Nikki nodded. "What is it?"
"Ahm...there are... it's... well, there are some people at the main gate, demanding to be let in. And to speak with you..."
"Ah...well...it's, uhm...there are roughly a thousand of them, I think, and...they say that they're the survivors...of Sunnydale."
"The survivors of Sunnydale?!" Damn. Dear gods above. The vampires have moved faster than I thought they would. "I'll go and meet them. On my authority, gather all the Daughters in the temple and tell them to get ready to leave for Sunnydale first thing tomorrow morning."
"As you command." Vi nodded and hurriedly left the room.
Nikki turned back to Janna. "Your best protégé. Willow. She's from Sunnydale, correct?"
Janna nodded. "I'll send her to you at the main gate. And I'll gather the rest of the coven to make ready to move out with the Slayers."
"Good." Nikki got up and left her private chambers.
15 to 21 Days until the Red Moon
Temple of Sineya Main Gates
Despite himself, and despite knowing full well that it was wrong, Xander had to admit that he had grown to hate his fellow townsfolk over the past week or so.
He hated all of them. Hated the pitiful, confused and terrified mass that constituted the surviving residents of Sunnydale Town. Leading them from the township to this temple in the Agaden Forest had been like herding insane cats around on one leg, and Lady Chase had been no help at all. She mainly just stared blankly at nothing, still in shock, presumably. It took a great deal of prompting from her daughter to get the noblewoman even to eat and drink.
On the other hand, and even though Xander truly hated to admit this, Cordelia herself had been somewhat helpful. Not only in supporting him as he walked, but Lord Chase's offspring was obviously used to having her orders obeyed instantly, and that air of command had proven incredibly useful in keeping things from falling apart completely.
Unfortunately, not falling apart completely didn't mean it didn't fall apart a little. That was why it had taken them five days to make what should have been a three day trip, even with a group as large as theirs.
Drumming the fingers of his right hand against his good leg, Xander waited impatiently for the Slayer that had left to go get the High Priestess of the temple to come back. There were still four Slayers there at the front gate.
Finally, after what seemed like an age, a dark-skinned woman walked out of the temple's main doors and approached the gate. She was significantly older than the Slayers at the gate, around the age of Lady Chase, perhaps.
The woman finally reached the main gates. "Rona, Molly, Chao-Ahn, Amanda." Nikki said to the four Slayers on guard duty. "Go into the Temple. Get ready to move out at dawn, along with the others."
"Yes, High Priestess!" The four Slayers said nearly in unison, before heading into the temple.
The woman – the High Priestess, he presumed – approached Xander, examining his House Chase guard uniform. "Are you the one in charge of these people?"
"In all but name." Xander replied. "Lady Chase and her daughter Cordelia are the local nobility and nominally in command of the refugees, but Lady Chase hasn't spoken a word since she saw her husband get killed by the vampires, and Cordelia is busy with her." He extended a hand. "Xander Harris, formerly of the House Chase Guard."
The woman didn't shake his offered hand, and Xander withdrew it, looking stung by the insult. The Slayer simply said, "I am Nikki Wood, High Priestess of the Agaden Temple. Where are Buffy and Faith?"
Didn't you send that Angel character as well? "They were still in Sunnydale the last time we saw them, along with Angel and Amy, holed up in a church. They told me to bring the survivors here, and tell you that they needed backup. Lots and lots of backup." Xander's expression turned into a snarl. "Fucking vampires took over the entire town."
"Amy?" What the hell is that idiot girl doing there...if it is her...
"Amy Madison. Previously the witch on retainer to Lord Chase. Something of a bitch." I'd say she'd fit right in with you. "That Buffy person decided to draft her into your service, as I recall."
"She drafted that-!? What the hell was that idiot girl thinking?" Nikki demanded.
"She's your Slayer, Nikki." Xander replied sarcastically. "I wouldn't want to guess what you Daughters of Sineya think."
"Who are you to speak to me like that? You're just a normal human!" Nikki Wood looked greatly offended at Xander's tone.
"Yeah, that I am. I'm a normal human who's killed several vampires, seen my best friend become one, fought him and lived to tell the tale. I'm a normal human who went through days and nights of hell in Sunnydale and then getting these people here, after you and your Slayers couldn't or wouldn't help them, and this normal human is going to -" Harris stopped mid sentence as he saw a red-headed young woman roughly his own age approach the gate. "...Willow?"
"Xander?" The redhead asked slowly, almost disbelieving. She then rushed forward and threw herself into his arms, almost causing Xander to fall over. Willow cried out, "Xander, thank all the gods you're still alive!"
Curiously, Cordelia had no idea why the sight of her ex-guard being hugged by another woman annoyed her no end, as she and her mother finally made their way to the main gates of the temple.
Next Time On The Red Moon Rises: Willow and Xander re-unite, and Amy continues her seemingly downward trajectory into insanity...but is there something else in play? Meanwhile, events conspire to get in the way of Wesley, Lilah, Gunn and Fred, and can Luke and Darla keep getting along?