Interlude 7: Fun and Games III

It was late, nearly one in the morning, as Xander hummed quietly to himself as he hopped down the stairs to fix himself a snack. Lights on in the dining room had him blinking, "Hey, Giles. Couldn't sleep?"

The older man glanced up distractedly from the large tome he was perusing. "Humn? Oh, well, actually, I was woken. Seems Drusilla is still in the area and is ... trying to help."

Perching on a kitchen chair Xander tilted his head, a tad confused. "Do tell."

"One of her minions brought a letter," he handed it to Xander to read. "She had a vision of a ritual being performed. Three sets of 'connected' beings 'by the non-existent light of the moon' that if successful will start a chain of events that will lead to the destruction of Earth."

Blinking, Xander slumped a bit in his chair. "Find out anything, yet?"

The Watcher sighed, "Possibly. There's at least four different rituals that specify the use of three separate races, but I can't seem to narrow it down any further."

"Which one has to be done on the new moon?" At the blank look, Xander elaborated. "You know, the non-existent light of the moon? Even in an eclipse you have enough to see it, but not new moons."

"Of course. I must be more tired than I thought." Running a hand over his eyes he leaned forward and re-read the entries. "This one. Requires six males and six females – four demons, four vampires, and four humans."

"Don't suppose she mentioned where it would be held?" Xander smiled ruefully at the head shake. "I hope we can figure out something. The new moon is tomorrow night and the girls won't be back until Sunday."

Giles looked puzzled, "I know that Buffy and Dawn were spending the weekend with their father. But where did Willow go?"

"Went with Oz to see him perform in the Battle of Bands in L.A."

Giles nodded, "We'll just have to ensure there's something for them to come back to, won't we?"

They researched late into the morning. Xander even made a trip to Willy's to see if the bartender had any information. "Sorry, G-man. No joy in Mudville."

The day passed and the two were no closer to figuring it out. They'd both exhausted their limited contacts – not even a generalized scrying spell could come up with any ideas.

Xander slumped at the kitchen table and noticed something. "You've got ants, Giles."

He shook his head. "They were in the envelope along with the message from Drusilla. I thought I'd cleaned them all up."

Xander sat up. "Drusilla put them in the envelope?"

The odd tone had Giles glance sharply up at his charge. "Yes. Why?"

"Dru wouldn't have done that unless..." Xander hopped to his feet. "Grab your gear. I know where they are."

* * *

The sign was faded and cracked, but you could still see the image of an ant on it's back above the words 'Moore and Son Exterminators'. Giles held in his annoyance at himself. He'd missed a vital piece of information because he had dismissed the ants as a prank from the delusional seer.

A side door was open and the two hunters crept silently into the abandoned warehouse. No one was in the office area – for which they were grateful – but they spotted no guards either, which made them suspicious and they took even greater care to make no noise. From somewhere ahead of them they could hear chanting. Cautiously, the two rounded the corner and the interior of the warehouse became visible.

Xander mentally admired the circle's construction: the painted lines and casters' positions reminded him of a giant clock. Four large demons, which Giles identified as Abrevins, sat at the four cardinal points: north, east, south and west, or 12, 3, 6, and 9. Beside each demon a vampire sat at its left and a human at its right; giving the vampires the 1, 4, 7, and 10 o'clock positions, leaving 2, 5, 8, and 11 o'clock for the humans. Each had a candle before them, those sitting at positions 1 through 10 had a lit candle. As they watched, the eleventh candle flared into life.

Giles pulled Xander back around the corner, cursing their luck. "Blast! We're too late. According to the book, once the eleventh candle has been lit outside influences cannot harm the casters." At Xander's raised brow, he elaborated. "It's in preparation for whatever they summon. As long as none voluntarily leave the circle, no harm can come to them. Even an Old One wouldn't be able to hurt them."

"So, if one of them leaves of their own accord, is that all? The ritual is stopped?"

Giles sighed. "Not quite. The power being raised needs someplace to go. If the circle remains open, then the spell's backlash could conceivably wipe out the entire western portion of the United States. We'd have to replace the segment in the energy flow with an opposing signature in order to contain the energies and dissipate them safely."

"How so?"

"If one of the humans left, then a vampire or demon would have to take it's place in the energy flow. The opposing gender as well as a mindset for wanting the ritual to fail would have to there as well. A demon would require an untainted human as a replacement and a vampire would require a living being. All that of course is dependent upon one of the beings voluntarily leaving the circle. They cannot be dragged out. And I just don't see how that's possible."

"If one does leave and an opposing energy force is put in it's place, is there anything else that needs to be done?"

Giles sighed, pacing back and forth, brow crinkled. "Well. Yes. One of the candles would have to be extinguished."

Xander clapped the older man on the shoulder, "Leave it to me. Be right back."

Stepping lightly, he headed towards the circle glancing at the seated figures mentally picking his target. He went unnoticed as he studied them. The chanting was rising in intensity and would soon end in a fevered pitch. He'd have to hurry.

Starting at the nine o'clock position he lightly brushed the shoulder of a female demon with light green pebbled skin and rows of soft spines along her cranium. "Duck."

Ten o'clock, a female vampire in a 50's style leather jacket, complete with pony tail and poodle skirt. "Duck."

Eleven o'clock, a female human with dark hair to her waist, wearing a plain black t-shirt and faded blue jeans. "Duck."

Sidling softly to the midnight position, Xander briefly studied the massive male Abrevin demon that sat there. His scales were such a dark green it was practically black and his cranium spines were rigid and razor sharp. Xander had to stretch to reach. The demon's inflection became harsher, but did not falter as Xander ghosted his hand over its shoulder. "Duck."

A male vampire sat in the one o'clock position wearing what looked like a Japanese kimono. "Duck."

The male human at two o'clock looked like a comb hadn't touched his head in years, and his clothing was filthy. Xander grimaced, "Duck."

At three o'clock, the female demon's coloring mirrored her counterpart across the circle. "Duck."

At four o'clock, Xander's grin widened. 'Tea time.' He grabbed a handful of an older female vampire's long blond hair and gave it a firm tug, shouting, "GOOSE!"

The lithe teen sidestepped as the female vampire shrieked in outrage, lashing out with her arm, fingers crooked into claws. "Nyah, Nyah! You can't catch me!" Xander stuck his tongue out at her and took off running. The vampire shot to her feet and began chasing after him. Xander practically skipped as he completed the circuit and plopped himself down in the empty spot. His grin threatened to split his face in two as he blew out the candle and looked up at the fuming female. "I win."

The chanting faltered and came to a stop as the flow of energy shifted. The other eleven beings' eyes flew open in confusion. A confusion that quickly turned to horror as they spotted the boy.

"Hi," he wiggled his fingers at the assembly. "Bye."

The power stretched, then snapped, a deep gong sounded, reverberating through their very bones. The four humans collapsed, falling onto their sides or backs as the energy invested was sapped away. Without a sound, the four vampires exploded into ash. The demons howled in agony, slowly fading as they returned to their home plane.

The last to disappear was the massive demon in the midnight position. It rose to it's full height unflinchingly. The male stared at the boy – rage and a grudging respect warring in glowing red eyes. "Well done," the voice was deep and oddly musical. "This will be remembered." As the last of the energy dissipated, the demon vanished.

Xander sat there a moment longer, staring wide-eyed at the spot where the demon had been. "Nope. My life's not complicated in the least."

"Xander?" Giles rushed to his young friend's side. "Are you alright?"

He was concerned when the teen nodded but leaned up against him, he could feel the boy shaking minutely. "Tired. Ready to go home. You?"

"Yes. Let's go home." He helped the boy to his feet and the two left the warehouse.

* * * 1626 words - MavenAlysse -finished July 20, 2010 * * *

[[As I was really enjoying the light-hearted tone of these game stories, I had originally planned to stop at "I win." But when dealing with the Hellmouth, sometimes unpredictable things occur. The demon just had to have his say. Who knows what will happen next. ::evil chuckle:: ]]