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 Post subject: "Like an Ever-Rolling Stream,
PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 4:06 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 17, 2008 7:39 pm
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"Like an Ever-Rolling Stream, or, Buffy Meets the Heroes Of the Past."

Late June 2004.

The flat objects descending from a number of ceilings in various parts of the world looked like sheets of mica the size of cafeteria trays plus a little. The occupants of the various rooms in which they appeared were all used to strange happenings, so they braced themselves for an active response rather than panicking.

The screens stopped at eye level, or at a compromise position in those rooms with more than one occupant. A multi-colored flickering appeared across them, resolving after a few seconds into the head and shoulders of an exotically beautiful olive-skinned black-haired woman who immediately said, “Hey, sorry to drop in like this but there’s trouble a’brewin’ in Hell’s coffeepot again.” As she said this, tiny pictures appeared around the edges of the screens allowing the people she was communicating with to see and hear each other.

This writer will skip the startled reactions from the majority who never expected to see this person again. (Except to point out that Harmony, watching from the bed in her little efficiency in San ”Berdoo,” was the least surprised, having had a brief, private heart-to-heart chat with Cordelia in the hallway of a certain law firm some odd months previously.)

Cordelia was fair enough to offer an explanation, “Yeah, what happened last January wasn’t a case of me just moving on into the hereafter, I’ve been drafted to run errands for some of the Higher Powers, and they figured all of you are tangled up in projects of your own now and can’t interfere, so it’s safe to let you all in on that. Besides, our little group needs some extra firepower on earth right now so consider this an appeal for help.”

The sarcastic response from Spike, holed up in LA, was not much to the point and not worth noting here, but Willow Rosenberg’s answer from a hotel room in Buenos Aires was quite reasonable, “How do we know this is legit? Last time I saw you, you sure weren’t, and you were in your original body then!”

The black-haired face replied, “All I can suggest, Willow, is call Giles and work out some way to test my bona fides. This does involve time travel but it still doesn’t mean we here and now have a lot of time to decide how we’re going to respond. It’s the usual world take-over thing, this time masterminded by a demon lord called Eyekohnus.”

Andrew Wells, in his apartment in Rome, perked up at that name, “Now, he’s a tricky one and he has a distinctive M.O. I’d suggest we just hear Cordy out and see if it fits. Then we can decide.”

A sandy-haired man watching all this at his own house in Bath glared just a bit and said, “I’m sure we all have every intention of hearing her out, Andrew. But making a decision will involve more than that.”

Cordelia was also visibly annoyed, looked at Andrew, and said, “Hey there, Nerd-Boy-by-Inheritance, I don’t recall us ever having been on an affectionate nicknames basis.”

Buffy Summers interjected, “Wait, Angel and Gunn are in one of those little screens like the rest of us, and they’ve seen her the most recently, well, of the people we can sort of trust,” she added hurriedly, carefully not looking at Harmony who was obviously avoiding giving anyone the satisfaction of seeing her look offended, “does this seem like the real La Chase to you two?”

The two men glanced at each other, and Angel answered for both, “She’s legit, everybody, but I know we won’t be making any decisions until we’ve heard her out.”

Cordelia, showing the barest signs of exasperation, said, “Well, then, let me do that.
Anyway, Eyekohnus will be appearing, at several points in history, in the form of and with the powers of a human man, to challenge various mortal champions. If he succeeds in overcoming any one of them, he will be able to assume his own full power at that time and place and bring in the usual army of minions and hirelings to conquer the earth yadda-yadda, starting from that point. He himself is bound, by the conditions of the type of invasion he is planning, to fight them fairly. But he will be able to bring in various allied creatures that could ambush his opponents. What is needed from us is teams to go and guard the backs of those champions, fight off the other monsters. It’s already known roughly what allies Eyekohnus will be using. The plan is, any of you who agree to join in will be sent in ones or twos to appropriate periods, with the aid and guidance of one or two of us from beyond that ol’ veil. Then we can prevent the cheating and, if God forbid one of the champions fails, we might still be able to stop it. But we can’t interfere directly in the duels; those have to be one on one.”

Now Harmony had a question, “Umm, Cordy, I’m evil, remember? Why are you trying to recruit me?”

Cordelia looked quite firmly at her best ex-friend, “Well, for one thing, Harm, I’ve been watching some of the things you’ve been up to since leaving Wolfram and Hart, so I figured you’d want to be involved. Besides, there’s also self-interest. A lot of vampires will survive in the New World Order if he succeeds. Inept ones like you won’t be among ‘em.”

To almost everyone’s surprise, Harmony actually laughed cheerfully at that. “Enough said. I’m in!” She happened to glance at Faith’s screen and noticed the brown-haired Slayer had raised her left eyebrow at her and Harmony returned the expression

Nobody else spoke immediately, then Giles broke the silence with, “By Gad, I believe her. I think we all should be in on this.”

Xander Harris was the first to speak, saying, “Well, I’m convinced. What do you need from me, Cor?” Following this came affirmations from basically everyone else she was contacting.

“Nothing, really, except to get your minds ready, most of you will be time-traveling or at least moving through space at the current moment within a few minutes from your current subjective time. You’ll all be dressed for the period and properly equipped. Except for you, Giles, you’re the challenged one for this time period, I’ll be sending you some back-up. Plus, I’ll want to set up a special scrying device so you can track everyone’s progress, I need a living person here and now to handle that and you’re the best qualified one who isn’t needed elsewhere. Once your own fight starts, the rest of them will be pretty much settled in time and place.” That said, the screens vanished.

Giles had already been in his study when the summons came. He rubbed his eyes a bit and when he opened them there was a raised platform of clear crystal on his desktop, a Mercator world map engraved in it, with dots of various colors, violet, scarlet, blue-green, yellow-green, and others, scattered in no obvious arrangement. He flinched a bit but kept his over-all composure and was not much more surprised when Cordelia herself appeared in the flesh before him. He rose and found himself smiling more than he ever would have expected he would on seeing her.

“Oh, nice to see you again, Cordelia, care for a cup of tea?”

“Perhaps in a bit, this bouncing around in space and time is exhausting, I’ll need some caffeine, fluids, and sugar soon.”

He chuckled and said, “That’s odd coming from someone who has transcended the bounds of mortality.”

“To paraphrase Travolta, I’m not that kind of higher being. Anyway, the teal dots are all of you living or undead people; once any of you move in time or space they’ll turn to a deep blue. The red ones are the departed joining in as your guides, the lemon-lime ones are any of the bad guys who are already near their targets, the purple ones are the champions, see, there’s you. Look, I need to get going again, I’ll send your main back-up later, but is it okay if I send over your assistant back-up right after I leave?”

“Why, yes, of course, but if I’m monitoring this device shouldn’t I have more details about . . . .”

“Gotta run, be back in a few, by your standards!” said Cordelia and simply disappeared.

After about a second of being annoyed, Giles looked down at the crystal board before him. Some of the dots had already moved and changed color. Then he heard a somewhat familiar voice behind say “Wow!” and he jumped around, yelping “Geez!”

Harmony was looking around her and saying, “If we could bottle that kind of traveling we could make a fortune . . .oh, hi Giles!”

“Good God, you mean when I told Cordelia it was alright to send my back-up, I was inviting you in.”

“Yeah, that’s a roger, you all heard me tell her I was in. Problemo?”

“Well, for starters, I’m not sure that you’re not actually part of the enemy.”

“You heard what she said. Even if you don’t trust me morally, my bread is buttered on the same side yours is this go-round. If you won’t believe I’d help stop them because it’s right, then trust me, I’ll certainly help because it saves my own room-temperature skin.”

“Well, granting that, there’s your ineptitude. How much back-up can you be?”

“Fair enough, look, I’ve been training a bit, and anyway there’ll be some much stronger help on the way soon. Not to rush but I can’t be sure how much time we have to spare and the only weapons I brought with me are a couple little wooden knives. Mind if I get one of those hunting knives out of your weapons case over there, maybe that big Bowie?”

“No, go right ahead, arm yourself how you wish,” said the Englishman, not certain whether to keep being appalled or to chuckle resignedly over the whole scenario.


Willow Rosenberg suddenly found herself standing on a landscape reminiscent of the northern part of the American plains. She was surrounded by blonde grass, except for a beaten dirt road in front of her, a small town in the distance. She was dressed for the late Victorian Period, or perhaps more accurately like a school marm from an old style Western movie. A man in the dressy version of a cowboy outfit, black frock coat, black trousers, hat, and a white shirt, was driving a buckboard in her direction.

He stopped right in front of her, tipped his hat and turned to face her, saying in a passable movie-Western accent, “Need a ride, Miz Rosenberg?” She could see his black hair and spectacles.

Without answering or giving him the chance to step down and do the clichéd gentleman’s act of helping her up, she leaped quite easily in to the seat beside him and said, “Wesley, seeing you here is one thing, but hearing you trying to be funny that way isn’t what I would have expected from you. Not just from your personality but, well, based on what we’ve been told about what went on in LA, and about what happened to Fred, and, well I just wouldn’t expect humor from you,” she concluded, her tone of voice noticeably sympathetic. “I mean, whatever afterlife you’re in, I hope it’s a happy one but, well I’m not sure if it could be with what happened to her soul and I don’t believe I’m babbling at a time like this.”

He gave her a half-smile and said, in his normal Received Pronunciation “Thanks for the thought, Willow, but where I am isn’t static, and neither is this world you’re living in. I remain hopeful of, perhaps, something changing. Meanwhile, well, we English have always taken our sense of humour quite seriously and I’m using it to cope as best I can”

The redhead dropped her eyes for a second, then, rather demurely, asked him, “Wes, will you be seeing Tara after this, I mean, can you get a message to her from me?”

“No, I won’t be seeing her, Willow, at least not anytime soon, and even if I were, well, trust me on this, there is nothing you can put into words, in any language, that she doesn’t already know. Try to rest your heart in that.”

She averted her face for a second, then turned back to him asking, “So, who are we here to help?”

“It’s ‘whom,’ Willow, and we’ll be seeing him in just few minutes. He’s a traditional American Western hero-figure, historically more a product of his own hype than anything truly great he did, all of which might not make him a good person to you, but he is the chosen opponent for Eyekohnus right now. He’s practicing his marksmanship a bit outside of town,” he replied, and they could hear the report of a large rifle around the next hillock.

“Why are you being coy about his name, Wesley?”

“No real reason,” he replied with a grin.

Willow sighed and said, “Alright, I’ll play along,” then, with a grin of her own, said “Xander’s right, you do look like that guy in Noah’s Ark.”

“Oh, please, Willow, now you’re comparing me to a Ham actor?” and she groaned in reply, and before she could say anything he said, “And there’s our man.”

Said man was a tall figure wearing a buckskin jacket with long blonde hair. While there were the usual bottles on rocks some distance from him, they had not been shot at. Rather, he was surrounded by man-sized bipedal reptiles holding short hatchets, or rather by the corpses of those creatures.

Wesley drew the mule to a stop and said, “Good day to you, sir. Mr. William F. Cody, I presume? My name is Wesley-Wyndham Price, this young lady is Miss Willow Rosenberg, and I believe we can explain what has just occurred.”

He was a tall black man, well over six feet, but so broad he looked almost squat, his muscles of steel filling his blue-and-white checkered work shirt and brown jeans. Going for a sunset stroll after supper was not his usual habit, but he felt moved to do it.

The man was not worried about being molested; the tarriers of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad carried little worth stealing, and were too tough to make assaults easy, and most, like the man in this story, carried a sheath knife in a boot. But, thinking, “If I don’t need it I’ll still not regret having it,” he stopped by the equipment tent and took along a spare tool handle, three feet of kiln-dried ash wood which could make almost anyone or anything stand up and take notice.

He had walked into the woods some short ways when he came to a clearing, and found he was not alone. Opposite him stood a creature with an enormous maw filled with carnivore’s teeth, making scream-like sounds. It stood almost as tall as himself, its legs too long and thin for a creature with such a thick, strong body. It was a nondescript dun color with forward-curving spikes arrayed down its back.

“Land of Goshen,” the man muttered, “for sure if that isn’t a hodag.” Not taking his eyes off the beast, he backed up until his back was against a tree trunk and brought the handle, a truly inadequate weapon against such a thing, up to a guard position.

The hodag charged but simultaneously two men came out from beyond the tree against which the railroad worker was braced. One was white, brown-haired, bulky and strong, the other black, shaved bald, slimmer but also well-muscled. They carried long spears which they drove into the sides of the beast, its own forward momentum impaling it deeper as it, however, drove the two newcomers inexorably backward.

Then a third man, white, blond and slender followed the previous two. He drove his own spear into the hodag’s screaming mouth, penetrating down into the throat. The creature’s howls died out in a gurgle. Then it shivered, collapsed and died. It lay on the ground for several heartbeats before it shimmered and disappeared.

The three men raised their spears, free of any trace of blood, to their shoulders and turned to face the large man, who nodded both respectfully and with gratitude.

“I am certainly thanking you gentlemen, sir, sir, my brother. Appears something strange is occurring though, I’d say.”

The other black man said, “Yes, there is something strange occurring, John Henry, and here and now you are at the center of it. My name is Gunn, Charles Gunn. This big fellow is Larry Blaisdell, and the other man is Andrew Wells. We have some explanations we need to give you.

Kennedy Marquez was standing in a desert in the American Southwest, dressed in standard cowgirl attire, holding a loaded repeating crossbow, with more bolts in a quiver at her belt. She was facing another young woman, dressed and equipped the same, but with East Asian features.

“Long time no see, my sister-in-arms,” said Chao-Ahn, and as the two exchanged embraces, said, "How’s Brazil?”.

Kennedy said, “Fine, and it’s good to see you, too, that training must be agreeing with you. But we’re understanding each other, and I’m not speaking Cantonese, and you’re not speaking English, Spanish, or French. How is this happening.?”

“You’re both speaking Apache, the language of the champion we’ve come to help,” said a voice from their left. They saw a woman in her early 30s, blonde, similar clothing and same weapon as theirs. “Greetings, my name is Lydia Westfield, once a Watcher. Our ally is around that rock outcropping. And I must say, I’m very proud of the caliber of Slayer these days, although I will admit you two were chosen for this job in part because of certain other specific criteria.”

The three exchanged some polite first-time greetings, both the younger girls deliberately choosing not to ask for an explanation of that last statement, then Kennedy quipped, “If I ever become a lawyer, this is a language skill I’d better leave off my resume. Any interviewer for any firm would wonder why I took time to learn Apache, wonder about me then, too,” and laughed a bit.

Lydia sighed, then threw back her head and shouted, “Cordelia!”

With a silent rush of air, the dark-haired woman appeared before them and said, “Faith was right about you, Kennedy, you are a bitca,” then pointed her index fingers at the two Slayers.

Kennedy began to protest, “Hey, I wasn’t complaining . . .” when she felt something move in her mind.

“There,” said Cordelia, “now you know both written and spoken Cantonese, and any other languages Chao-Ahn knows, and she knows English, French, Spanish, and Latin. See you, have to rush” and with a pop of imploded air, she was gone.

Lydia looked at the sky and said, “Do let’s hurry, girls, those things in the sky are heading right for where Cochise is.” ______________________________________________________________
Buffy found herself walking down a street in what she somehow recognized as 17th Century Paris. She was dressed for the period, sort of, except that she could tell her long flounced skirt was split somewhat like a bloomer, although in such a way as not to be obvious to casual glances. The street had only a few people on it, and was dimly torch-lit. She felt that her intended course was to walk in the direction she was facing. Then she heard her name called from across the street.

She turned her head, then crossed the street in a single bound and threw her arms around Tara Maclay. “Oh God, I’ve missed you, and Dawn too and, well, everybody,” she said into the taller woman’s shoulder, then, raising her face, continued, “I guess I ought to ask how you are but then I suppose I of all people should know that already,” she said, smiling warmly.

“Well, actually, you wouldn’t know, and I’ve missed you all too. And tell Dawn I’m very proud of her. I’m in a very different afterlife from you, Buffy, I’ve become a guiding spirit active on several other continua. But I’ve been watching all of you, my afterlife isn’t completely without some loneliness at times, and I took action to prevent The First from imitating me over these past months.”

Buffy stepped back a bit, although her hands were still on the other woman’s arms, and said, “You’ve been watching us . . . .”

“The whole time, and no I don’t have anything judgmental I want you to tell Willow for me; if the time comes I’ll say that myself. But I do want you to tell her that if I had been the one alone in Sunnydale last year instead of her, Kennedy would have gotten me just as easily.

“Look, we may not have much time, so we need to get going,” and she started off in the direction Buffy had been walking. “Cordelia asked me to be second in command here even though I don’t work this dimension ordinarily. She figured I’d know anything she didn’t about who could best work together. The threats aren’t the same, since Eyekohnus will be using different kinds of creatures as cheats in various settings. This one calls for our specific abilities.”

“Hmm,” Buffy mused, “I wonder where you two sent Anya . . . .”

Tara cut her off, “Buffy, I haven’t seen Anya on this side, not even once, neither has Cordelia, we’ve no idea where she is, and don’t ask too many questions like that, none of us are allowed to discuss the afterlife in detail, especially not that of another person.”

Buffy was about to apologize when a gang of urchins ran past and threw a hunk of mud in roughly their direction, shouting “Gouennes!”. It splattered against a wall, too far away to splash either of them, and the boys ran away shouting more wordy insults and cackling laughter. Buffy turned around and was about to say something back when she realized something.

Turning back to Tara, she said, “I understood them perfectly,” very surprised.

“Yes, part of this is you were given complete fluency in the French of this time and place,” Tara said, smiling, then her face grew a bit mischievous and she continued,” which should help you to finally master modern French when you go back.”

“Buffy glared at her, mouthed a rude word, and the two artificially blonde beauties continued on their way.
Xander found himself wearing doublet and hose, carrying a basket-hilt broadsword, standing outside a military encampment, with Jonathan Levinsohn approaching him

“Surprised to see you with me, Jon, I figured you’d be with Andrew.”

“Hey, he stabbed me in the back and he knows I know that. One look at me and he’d be running like Daphne from Joanna’s ghost, thinking I was an avenging spirit looking to avenge on him.”

“A Dark Shadows reference, huh? Once a nerd, always a nerd, I guess.”

“Oh, and who recognized the reference? Pots and kettles, Xander, come on, Sir Phillip Sidney doesn’t know it but he’s waiting for us.

Spike found himself strangely out of place. His clothes were those of a 17th Century Englishman, rapier and dagger at belt, but the architecture and landscaping were obviously Japan. He was standing along a footpath in a manicured park, and it was just after sunset but not full dark for humans. He began walking and saw the rather incongruous sight of a haystack by the path. Buried in it blade first was an odd polearm. It had the general shape of a halberd, although the flared ax blade was proportionately longer and a bit slimmer than was usual in those. The spear blade at the tip had both point and edges sharpened, but on the back was not a hook to pull armor loose or a horseman down, but rather a spike like a cavalryman’s pick. The haft was a bit short, comparable to that of a Lucerne hammer, and there was a thickened portion at the butt. Spike picked up the weapon and brandished it; it balanced as if it had been designed for him.

“Cordy said you can take it back with you, William,” said a familiar voice he had never expected to hear again. He looked behind him and saw Darla, dressed for the same period, holding a more or less standard Japanese naginata, a dirk belted to her waist.

“Darla! Fancy seeing you here, or, I must say, anywhere,” he said, quite genially.

“Still the sharp wit of a true poetaster born, Spike, but then I never expected you to change that much, regardless of what new, err, items you’re carrying around. Honestly though, it is, surprisingly enough, good to see you again; more proof that both of us have changed, I’d say. Let’s walk; I need to brief you on whom we’re here to help.”

They strolled at a rather easy pace, considering what they were there for, as she did so. Spike for his part asked several sharp questions and digested the answers.

Within a few minutes, they came upon a man dressed in the ordinary clothes a man of the samurai class would wear for a stroll. He had both blades of his daisho in hand, and around him lay the corpses of four humanoid badgers, armed variously. They did not have to announce their presence; his warrior’s instincts caused him to turn before they were within ten paces.

Darla and Spike both bowed deeply and Spike said, “Miyamoto-san, I believe we can explain what is occurring here.”

Faith found herself on street of mud in a stinking stone town, dressed like a medieval noblewoman. Facing her were a white man in early middle age and a young black woman, very pretty. All carried cruciform broadswords.

She said, “I do recognize you, Quentin, even though you were a lot older those couple times you visited me in prison. And Kendra, you I know quite well by reputation.”

The man surprised her with a smile, something he never would have given her as a living person. “Good thing we don’t have to waste time on introductions, Faith, since Tancred is right around that corner and already in serious trouble,” and as she looked up, she saw a medium sized dragon flying overhead. All three began to run in the direction he had indicated.

Angel had been to Istanbul, and so recognized Constantinople in the time of Justinian when he saw it. He was dressed in a long coat and carrying a spatha, and he knew the similarly dressed woman immediately.

“Jenny! Oh, God, I never expected . . . .”

“Not now, Angel, Belisarius is already being attacked, let’s hustle.”

Buffy and Tara came to a halt about half a modern block away from a man in a maroon suit, tan hat and vest, white shirt and long white feather in his hatband, rapier and dagger drawn, fighting four animated skeletons each holding a xiphos, the laurel-leaf-shaped slashing sword of ancient Greece.

“That’s Cyrano?” asked the golden-blonde, “He doesn’t look like I pictured him, well, not quite.” She drew her axe.

“That’s the real Cyrano, not a character in a play. He won’t have any trouble with those skeletons, but his blades won’t even break the skin of that thing in the shadows behind them. I was afraid of something like this, neither will your axe. Well it will now,” and as the ash-blonde said this, ran her left hand along the blade while muttering a spell.

“Tara!” Buffy yelped at seeing the blood.

“It’s not a major cut, and it was necessary for the magic to work. Go, Buf, that thing is too close to him, and remember don’t be surprised by anything I say or do, even your name, since he wouldn’t believe the real one.”

Buffy ran and leaped into an attack on the green-scaled troll-like thing which stepped out of the shadows. It had not expected her and she was able to gash its upper left arm badly. However, it turned quickly and soon she found extensive evasion necessary. She combined this with good counterstrikes and soon the creature had several small wounds on its lower arms.

As Cyrano dispatched the last of the skeletons, Buffy skidded on her side under the giant’s grasp and began attacking its right leg from behind. Meanwhile, Tara walked over to join the man, who was quite aware of her even though he was following the combat quite closely.

With a vague hint of a curtsy, Tara addressed him, “Viscomte de Bergerac, I am Tara Maclay, and my companion there is Bernice Summers. We have something important to speak with you about.”

Giles was examining the scrying device. He held a wakizashi in his right hand and was using the base of a small cross of olive wood as a pointer in his left, holding it so that the crossed beams were visible. Harmony walked over with a grin, checking the balance of the hunting knife she had picked out as she did so.

“Hmm,” he said, “I think I’m getting the hang of locating people on this thing.”

She looked at the cross and observed, “Taking no chances, huh, Giles? Believe me, you don’t have to worry about anything from me.”

“Well, for all I know, some of the creatures we’re expecting might dislike holy symbols. And I have to speak plainly, nobody has ever lost anything because they chose not to rely on you, Harmony.”

“Oh, I admit it, I’ve been known to let people down and back-stab them, quite often over 23 years, but I’m working on that.”

“Quite. Be serious, Harmony, ever since about five years ago, any capacity you ever may have had to ‘work on’ anything became far more limited, if not moot.”

She chuckled a bit at that, and answered, “Really, Giles, that wasn’t as big a deal for me as most humans or most vampires think it was.”

He straightened to look her in the face. “I don’t recall your drinking much blood in high school, unless the Cordettes had some odd rituals Cordelia never chose to enlighten us about.”

She looked right back at him and said, “To be both serious and honest, draining the life out of people while being a sharp pain in the neck is what I’ve done for most of my life, err, existence. It’s just that, as a vampire, I’m a bit more up-front about it, or, as you Brits might say, more vulgar. “

Her expression and tone of voice grew a bit thoughtful, “My Gram Ainsley used to love that word ‘vulgar,’ and she knew just how to use it, too. She was a war bride, you know, grew up in Yorkshire, was working in London when she met my mom’s father.”

Giles digested that for a second, then said, “Well, finding that out was more interesting than I thought it would be.”

She replied, “Actually, I’ve enjoyed talking with you, too, but we’d better get set, I hear something in your front hall. Wish our reinforcements would get here.”

They turned toward the open doorway of the study and saw five creatures come charging in, things with four legs and with tentacles where no animal should have them. Those tentacles were long enough to reach over the furniture so Harmony and Giles moved quickly around front of them so they could use their weapons.

It was not easy. Each beast had enough length of body and number of tentacles to surround either of them by itself. They lopped off tentacles but it was too few among too many, and scored only minor hits on the bodies.

Suddenly a large man-like shape appeared in the doorway, grabbed the rearmost beast, and tore it to pieces which he flung to the floor, then did the same to another just as it registered that a new front had opened up.

A third turned to face the newcomer, a huge man clad in dark clothing, much like that of a late 18th Century German peasant, and attacked. It was a fight, but the beast soon joined its fallen compatriots. Relieved of the excess, Giles and Harmony quickly dispatched the two in front. When the last one died, the remains of all five shimmered and vanished.

Their new ally turned to face Harmony and Giles. He had a face that perhaps could once have been called extremely handsome, but no longer. He, it, was unbelievably pale, with odd bluish or yellowish patches, and the skin was drawn tightly across the facial bones. His neck, wrists, and hands had ugly scars, puckered and blackened. His lips were also black, as were the edges of his fingernails, and the bones of his cranium were oddly flattened. He stood close to seven feet tall and his eyes were superficially dull but had a furtive quality to them.

He spoke, his voice quite surprisingly a clear tenor, saying, “Greetings, Mr. Giles, Miss Kendall, seems I arrived in time.”

“Yes, and for that we’re quite grateful, uh, sir, um . . . .”

“I have no real name and need none, as it’s rare anyone has any reason to speak *to* me. One fool wanted to call me Adam, but he’s dead these two hundred years and more. People do at times speak *about* me, usually just calling me The Monster,” and the capital letters were plainly apparent in his words, “which is really all the name that’s needed.”

Giles and Harmony looked at each other; he could see she understood just as clearly as he who this was, and was not as surprised by that as he would have been an hour before.

No sooner had this happened than another man appeared in the doorway, about six feet four inches tall, slender but muscular, with brown hair and a forked satanic beard. He was wearing a black turtleneck, slacks, and shoes, and carrying a backsword in the style of Reiterpallasch, that German sword which was lighter than a broadsword but heavier than a rapier. Behind him stood a small pack of the tentacled beasts. The new arrival spoke.

“Rupert Giles, I am Eyekohnus. I believe you have a blade like this in your arms cabinet. I am here to challenge you to stand as champion of your world, if you dare.”

Giles laid down his wakizashi on the table, walked to the cabinet, and withdrew an espadron, the Spanish equivalent to his foe’s backsword. He turned, raised it to a challenge position, and answered, “I dare!”

Eyekohnus advanced on him, sword raised. The beasts swarmed into the room as Harmony and The Monster walked forward to meet them. Here, the preliminaries were over.

Buffy, having scored one deep wound on the giant’s right leg, continued to work on it, and soon that one gave way. Falling to the right, the creature found reaching an attacker on his left was now much harder, and the Slayer had soon brought him to his second knee.

Cyrano, looking at her in open admiration, said to Tara, “She is truly amazing, Mam’selle Maclay. If not for her being so obviously past 20, I’d be tempted to guess she is perhaps the Slayer of your time.”

Tara did not bother to hide her surprise that he knew about such things, but she also chose not to ask him how, understanding that through history some had to know. She simply said, “Yes, she is, but things are a bit different in 2004. For one thing, there is more than one Slayer active then, and she has friends who have helped her to survive this long. But I don’t suppose those details matter much at a time like this.”

Now evened up, the monster was lurching about like a crab, but still dangerous. Buffy realized she might have been smarter to have lamed him below the knees rather than above, since it would make his head an easier target. But, no time to regret anything, and she drove a huge blow into his back just above where the pelvis would be on a man, and it flopped forward with a roar. Before it could recover, she trotted up further and hacked through its neck. It fell face down, growled, and then grew quiet, shimmered and vanished.

Buffy walked over to the others and Cyrano began to congratulate her when a man appeared, followed by several ugly looking-creatures. The man was not wearing the functional dress of a serious swordsman, but was rather dressed like a fop of the royal court, but his expression had nothing of the twit about it, and his sword and main-gauche were worn like a serious killer’s weapons should be.

Drawing his blades, the newcomers said, “Cyrano Hercule Savinien de Bergerac, I am Eyekohnus. I am here to challenge you to stand as champion of your world, if you dare.”

Drawing likewise, Cyrano stepped forward and answered, “I dare, monster!”

Wesley and Willow were both too busy to think straight as creatures attacked them from all sides. Keeping them away from Cody, as he squatted behind boulders, exchanging rifle shots with Eyekohnus, was their main priority, and in doing that they had to neglect their own safety.

Willow had no time to summon up any serious magical counterattacks, she was kept busy maintaining a barrier against dozens of flying creatures, while skipping to avoid various crawling things which sought to attack her legs. Wesley meanwhile was blazing away at the creatures on the ground with two revolvers. They were Walch Navy .36 calibers twelve-shooters; he had already run out of bullets for the one from his right holster and had to draw the third one from behind his back, and he had had no chance to reload.

The red-haired girl was sweating profusely. She had suffered several near misses from the little monsters. “C’mon, Buffalo Bill, hit him, I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up,” she thought to herself.

Feeling a rush of air, she saw a black-haired woman in front of her, smiling. Cordelia raised her right hand and created a barrier of white light, wider than Willow’s which stropped the flyers more effectively, while her left hand drove back many of those on the ground. Wesley took the opportunity and reloaded two of his guns.

Willow grinned wickedly and spun a round, sending out gouts of flame which fried the vast majority of both flying and crawling beasts. Turning back to her erstwhile classmate, she said, “Many thanks, Cor.”

“Part of the job, Wil, but you’re quite welcome. Catch you later,” she answered, and vanished.

Miyamoto Musahsi, or, to Anglicize it, Musashi Miyamoto, was fighting a picture perfect katana duel with Eyekohnus. Darla and Spike were occupied with four naginata-wielding oni. The two vampires were not bothering to try very hard to kill them, but concentrated on out-maneuvering the clumsy ogres and keeping them away from the main event.

Spike looked over at Darla. “I couldn’t take her. I’d give her a fight, but she’d beat me, Angel too. Faith could probably defeat her, but it’d be a near thing. Buffy could win, definitely, but she’d have to work at it.

“What *is* she, though? From what I know about her human soul, it wouldn’t make this much difference. I heard how Connor’s soul changed her during the pregnancy, but that couldn’t still be there. Maybe she’s some third thing, changed somehow in whatever afterlife she has. What in the name of God, or Beelzebul, is she?”

John Henry circled warily, his tool handle held so he could immediately use it to strike or block as needed. Eyekohnus, wearing a red cambric shirt, brown jeans, and work boots, did likewise.

Gunn, Larry, and Andrew were themselves busy with spearing three foot-long crawling things that combined the most human-repulsive aspects of spiders and lizards. Andrew, not taking his eyes from the tiny beasts, said in a quiet voice, “Remember, John Henry, he looks like a man, he fights like a man, but he isn’t one. You can fight him, you can beat him, but you can’t kill him, and even if you could, you wouldn’t be guilty of anything.”

Kennedy, Chao-Ahn, and Lydia had quickly found a workable strategy; as long as two of them were shooting at all times, they could stop the flying monsters effectively. That left each of them the chance to reload as needed.

Chao was doing so and took a split second to glance over at Cochise. He and Eyekohnus were fighting hand-to-hand with stone knives, their thews straining as each fought to break the other’s grip on the wrists of their knife hands. Muscles rippled under the Apache chief’s sweat-glistening skin.

“Forget it , girl,” she thought to herself, “Men worth having don’t usually want a woman who can break them in half and throw both pieces twenty yards. Kennedy seems to have the right idea, too bad I don’t like the girls as much as she does.

“This is unbelievable. I just learned English, and from a spell no less, and already I can think in it.” Shrugging, she took aim once more.

Cyrano had expected, from what Tara had told him, to be in a fight. But as always, no opponent is a known quantity until a fight begins, if then. He could feel the strength of his opponent’s wrist, see the perfection of his moves. The Frenchman knew that he would be facing no more skilled a foe if he were dueling D’Artagnan himself, and that fellow French patriot probably would not be trying to kill him. Eyekohnus was.

But still it was a task to which he was accustomed and he could not help but notice his allies, Buffy leaping and dancing to engage slower, bulkier creatures while Tara spoke and gestured to fry smaller ones. He thought to himself, “And here and now, they would both be executed, if they could be caught and tried, that is. Strange world theirs must be, and even stranger the evils in it, to require champions such as they are. I own I’m intrigued, but also glad that it’s a world I’ll not be seeing.”

The end came suddenly, as it often does in such fights. While each had sustained some minor scratches, neither had suffered wounds which slowed them, and they were both too good to make a truly wrong move. But inevitably one of them made the right move at the wrong moment, and when Eyekohnus did so, Cyrano thrust him through the heart. The demon lord staggered, choked, fell, twitched, died, and vanished, taking his pets and henchbeings with him.

While the blood on his blade vanished with the thing it had come from, Cyrano still carefully wiped it off before sheathing it; a warrior’s habits must be followed strictly, or his tools might not work when he needs them. Then he turned and walked over to Buffy and Tara.

Bowing from the waist, he doffed his hat and swept it not quite low enough for the feather on top to brush the street, and said, “Thank you, noble daughters of Leah and Rachel, it was an honor to fight beside you. And it warms my heart to see that 500 years hence, the white plume of freedom I have served so many years shall still have defenders to answer its call.” He straightened, replaced his chapeau, and concluded, “And so, adieu,” then turned and went on his way.

Tara turned and walked in the other direction and Buffy followed her lead. The smaller woman asked, “What did he mean by ‘daughters of Leah and Rachel’?”

Her friend answered, “The wives of Jacob in the book of Genesis, ancestors of the Israelites.”

“Okay, even I know who Jacob was, believe it or not, but you and I aren’t . . . .”

“Actually, Buffy, since the Jewish people reckon ancestry by the female line and, well, around 1795 there was a Jewish woman in southern England and another in northwestern Germany who married Gentile men and there’s been two unbroken lines of daughters since then, one leading to me and one to you.”

Buffy nodded her head and said, “So that should be explaining a few things about me and Dawn I’ve been after wondering about,” to a chuckle from Tara.

The taller woman turned and said, “Buffy the enchantment on that ax is permanent and it could prove useful if you want to take it back with you, but it has my essence on it so it wouldn’t be wise to let Willow get too near it.”

“Okay, consider her totally restricted.”

“There is something I’d like you to give her for me, though,” and she turned and hugged Buffy, who returned it eagerly. “Actually, I’d like to give you more to pass along but, well . . . .”

With a twinkle in her eyes, Buffy said, “What, afraid I couldn’t take more?”

Tara replied, “Oh, I know you could take it, and probably enjoy taking it, too,” making it now Buffy’s turn to chuckle, realizing Tara was in part referring to Satsu, “but I don’t know how well Willow would take that part from you, or how Kennedy would react.”

“Okay, here I am a straight woman flirting with a ghost girl. Even for me, this sets a record for strangeness.”

Tara smiled as she stepped away a bit and said, “Now, you know that isn’t true, things have been stranger before and they will be again for you. Give my love to everyone.”

“I will.”

“And, Buf, take care, okay?”

“You too, Tare.” And as those words left her lips, Buffy was back in her room at the castle, holding the axe but wearing her regular clothes.

Angel and Jenny were walking at an ordinary pace away from the scene of their fight alongside Belisarius. Not surprisingly, they were not chatting idly.

Finally Angel began, “Jenny, I really want to say . . . .” but she interrupted him.

“Angel, this isn’t the right time or place for any apologies. If and when it comes, we’ll both know it. Besides, you can’t speak for Angelus.”

“Fair enough.”

“Look, Cordelia told me to tell you you can keep the spatha and scabbard, as they’re a useful length and hard to come by. I will tell you one thing, when we saw you that time on the Ghost Roads, and Theresa, we were just surprised to see you there in your body., we’ve both become guides like Lucy Hanover is, and we were busy eladign a couple groups on to their afterlives.”

“Thank you for telling me that, and I mean it,” Angel replied, and almost smiled. The almost smile was still on his lips when he found himself back in the living quarters he shared with Gunn and Spike, neither of whom had quite returned yet.

Buffy noticed Xander had appeared in the faculty lounge of their castle headquarters at the same moment she had. She looked over at him and asked, “Hey, who were you with?”

“Jonathan,” he answered, “we were back in Elizabethan times helping some soldier-poet I should remember from English class but don’t.”

“Oh, that must have been intense for you, I mean, I know you guys were close in elementary school but the last time you’d seen each other it was as enemies and . . . .”

“Hey, hey there, Buf, you’re babbling like Willow. You know it wasn’t a big deal, Jonathan and I had stopped being real friends long before I even met you. What’s this really about, or, should I ask, who were you with?”


“Did something go wrong? Is that why you’re upset?”

“No, we helped out Cyrano perfectly fine. It’s just, she was different from how I remembered her.”

“She’s dead, Buffy, you should know better than I do that’s an experience of the life-changing variety.”

“That’s not really it, though. I mean, not that we’ve dealt with actual ghosts and the spirits of real live dead people much, but a person’s shade is always supposed to be cold, no nonsense, purposeful, have their mind made up about everything and not get excited much, like Beatrice in that poem The Inferno.

“But she wasn’t. She was actually joking with me, in a way that she was sorta starting to as a human but never really did, y’know? Her attitude reminded me, well this’ll sound crazy, but remember that actress who played the best friend of Paul Reiser’s daughter in Bye-Bye Love, then made a romantic comedy on her credit cards? Well, I read a couple interviews with her and Tara was acting a little bit like her, somehow.”

“And that’s bad?” he asked, truly at a loss as to where his friend was going with this.

“Just, it makes me think, that somehow whatever this was might not be over, or if it is, that something even stranger is coming along.”

“There’s always something stranger for our little group, Buffy.”

“I mean even stranger-er, like things are going to change for us from inside again, like they did in Wil’s first and third years at college. But don’t ask me to explain more than that because I can’t. Hell, I’m just guessing anyway.”

The two friends stepped closer to each other and exchanged the hug both needed right then.

Cody fired a shot just right and it caught Eyekohnus through his skull. He fell to earth, although it was over a full minute before he and his creatures disappeared, and Bill joined his companions in fighting the smaller creatures until then.

The three heroes walked over to where the demon lord had fallen; the only trace was a flattened slug, with no trace of blood or brains on it. Buffalo Bill picked it up and examined it.

Wesley spoke softly, “Mr. Cody, this was probably the only time you’ll ever have to face anything like this. You know your own mind, I don’t, but you may want to consider not remembering this incident very clearly. Whether or not to keep that slug is part of that decision.”

“Well, I thank you kindly, Mr. Wyndham-Price, and you Miss Rosenberg, for your help and for your words. This will be a matter I’ll need to think on,” and the three said their farewells.

Wesley and Willow climbed back on the buckboard and rode a small distance. He began to talk with her.

“Odd, Willow, this is really the closest we’ve ever worked together, even in Sunnydale. Yes, we were working mostly individually but still, it strikes me that, had things been a bit different over the years, we’d have made a dangerous fighting combination for the bad ones.”

Willow thought for a second about a talk she’d had, in an alternate-history earth into which she’d been swept by a strange magical accident, with an actor who looked a lot like Giles, chuckled a bit, and said, “Yes, things can always be surprisingly different.”

Next thing she knew, she and Kennedy were back in their hotel room, facing each other, and simultaneously saying “Wow!”

The two girls shared the tales of each other’s adventures. Kennedy concluded with, “And any of us who learned new languages still can speak them here and now. So I can talk Apache, Cantonese, and a few words in some other Asian languages.”

“Lucky bitca. I was dealing with Americans, so I didn’t get anything new to do with my tongue.”

Kennedy immediately said, “No problem, I’ve always liked the old stuff you already know anyway.” Willow looked at her and the rest of that conversation is a private one.

Giles caught Eyekohnus with an expert slash to the throat, and the demon lord fell, blood fountaining about the study. The villain grabbed for his neck as any human would have and was dead within thirty seconds. With that he and all his tentacled creatures, dead or alive, vanished. No traces of blood remained.

Harmony, Giles, and The Monster straightened and looked at each other for a split second of total silence. Then Cordelia appeared in front of them with the usual gust of air.

“Well, everyone seems to have won, so we don’t need that thing anymore.” So saying, she gestured at the crystal device and it vanished.

The Monster nodded to them and said, “Sir, Ladies, I believe my work here is done,” and turned to leave.

“Wait.” said Giles, “Of course your path is your own decision, but the organization I’m part of could perhaps help you in some . . . .”

The cadaverous-bulky figure interrupted with a wave and replied, “I appreciate that Mr. Giles, but I’m not a joiner. And the truth is, the Watchers and Slayers I’ve seen over the years have seldom been good sights for me. I will keep your offer in mind, though. Adieu.” And with another nod he was gone, amazingly quickly for such a huge being.

Giles walked over to his desk and produced three cups and saucers. “Would you ladies care to join me for tea? Sorry I can’t offer your American pallets coffee but I’ve not even enough Gold Blend left for half a mug-full.”

With a half-smile Harmony said, “Well, I would but I have to do the California Here I Come thing so I’m not sure . . . . “she trailed off.

Cordelia pulled two chairs up to the front of the desk and said, “You don’t have to do that any quicker than I have to do Heaven’s My Destination, Harm. Let’s accept the man’s hospitality.”

Once they were all seated with cups fixed as they wished, they took their first few sips in silence. Cordelia took a moment to look at Giles’s eyes and found herself making a small internal shiver.

“What was that I just saw? Is that something that was always there, and I’m only noticing it because this is just the first time I’ve seen him since my little ‘birthday gift’ from Skip? I’m not sure; if only I’d had a chance to talk to him between then and the time I’ve heard about when he was attacked by a Bringer, because I’ve heard rumors about him ever since. Maybe it’s just his normal self, but I’d swear that I saw things in those eyes that aren’t supposed to be together. But there’s no easy way to find out, is there, even if I ask some of my other-worldly contacts? I’ll have to think about this.”

Giles cleared his throat a bit and said, “Well, thank you, Cordelia, for your timely warning, and I do honestly thank you for your help, Harmony. But I am a bit concerned about one thing. Given you admit to being evil, and the fact remains you are a vampire, I don’t know if I and the rest of our group can really think of your becoming more a more effective fighter as particularly good news. And that, again being honest with you, may be bad news for you personally.”

Cordelia thought to herself, “Well at least that’s definitely the real Giles we know and can tolerate,” and she found she was sort of one eighth grinning. She looked over at Harmony and much to her surprise, the blonde did not look in the least bit worried by the Watcher’s comment.

“Fair enough,” the vampire said in a casual voice, “just like I told Angel when I became his assistant, I know my past is against me. Judge me by what I show you, not what I tell you.” She realized Cordy was looking at her and the two former women exchanged an otherwise imperceptible glance which Giles did not notice.

The brunette spoke up, saying, “Giles, if you’d like my input here,” and, as a look from him showed he was listening, she continued,” whatever changes she may have been making, I think we should stay with the unspoken arrangement we all seem to have established with Harm back when we first found out about her being a vampire. If we don’t actually catch her harming an innocent person and if she doesn’t attack one of us, we should keep observing this truce we sort of have with her. It might prove useful”

Giles visibly considered this a few moments then said, “Agreed, for my part, and I’ll pass the word along to the rest. Who knows, if nothing else, perhaps your being in the world, Harmony, keeps a space filled that otherwise would be occupied by amore dangerous vampire.” And to his surprise, both his guests laughed quite heartily at that, and he found himself joining in.

He continued, “And meanwhile, I won’t propose a toast because these are hot drinks we have here, but let’s sip to, well, the world. It will go on turning normally for another day because of us and those like us.” And all three took a sip.

They continued talking about inconsequential for a minute or two, then as soon as both their cups were empty Harmony and Cordelia vanished.

Giles said to himself, “And of course, part of being a host is the washing-up.” He laughed lightly as he gathered up the cups. He glanced over at this weapons rack, saw an empty space, and said angrily, “Why, that thieving little blonde harlot stole my knife!”


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