March 8th, 2009

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Chapter 21 of The Cost of Giles


The Cost of Giles

Ch 21 – Downward

 

 

Tara pulled out a box in the closet of the room she shared with Willow, the room that used to belong to Joyce. From the box she removed an old book, its pages yellowed and crinkled with age. On its cover was something in French, but it was so warn with time that it was no longer readable. She wandered across the room and leaned against the mirrored dresser, remembering her grandmother’s strong voice and the scent of cinnamon that had always seemed to surround her.

 

With a slight hitch in her breath and a bit of nostalgia for her lost relative, Tara opened the volume. She knew exactly which page she needed, as she knew the contents by heart. Her grandmother’s handwritten script was thin and shaky and was written in the unique patois of the bayou. The letters on the page were difficult to make out, but since she had them basically memorized, she was able to find what she needed. Looking over the ingredients necessary to make the spell work, she gave herself a small smile. They were the basic ingredients that every witch worth the name kept on hand. Her smile faded as she remembered the ‘victim’ that the spell was intended for… she didn’t like this sort of magic and never had. But Giles was out of control and she hated the idea of him destroying himself even more. Besides, her granny would have been the first to tell her that sometimes it was a just and necessary act to inflict pain for the greater good, even if we felt regret for having to do so.

 

Behind her, she felt a disturbance in the aura of the room and quickly glanced over. Pushing against the bureau and shifting nervously from foot to foot, she found the wizard, al Rashid, standing in the shadows of the closet. He was far too tall and she and Willow’s clothes were draped about his shoulders and head. His sudden appearance wasn’t what had her nervous, however. It was what he’d brought with him.

 

Crouching at his feet were several somethings that Tara would’ve described as gremlins. They stood, perhaps, ten inches tall. There were eight of them, she counted, and they gave off a feeling of ‘wrongness’ to her magical senses. It was as if she could detect that they didn’t belong to the ‘natural world’, which in fact, is exactly what was happening.

 

They were naked and their skin was a dark bluish-black with dark green mottling. Their limbs were thin, but you could see their wiry muscles bunching and flexing as they moved. Their chests and stomachs were a slightly lighter green than the mottling along the rest of their bodies and they were hairless. Their heads had a triangular ridge of bone that gave the impression of a steam-shovel ready to bowl over anyone in their way. Their eyes were large and yellowish-orange and there was intelligence behind them. Some of them stared at her and she could sense ill-intent. Others made a chuffing, murmuring chitter sound at one another and she got the distinct impression that they were conversing about her, which only added to the feelings of dread she was experiencing.

 

A few of the creatures were standing mostly upright, with two of them reaching maximum height by hanging onto Alican al Rashid’s robes. The others were on all fours, with their long fingers curled into fists against the flooring. They all seemed to bob their heads from side to side, first to the left, then the right and then back to the left as they seemed to be sizing her up.

 

The jerking movements of their heads caused their large, fanlike (or bat-like) ears to flap irregularly. Atop these large pointed ears, was a small needle like quill. There were more spiny growths along their upper arms and along their shin bones. Their faces were long and thin, with ridges of bone clearly visible beneath the thin skin and their teeth were a full inch long, thin and glinting bright white. They looked more than sharp enough to easily rend flesh. They seemed to have a constant, wicked looking grin.

 

Tara had, unconsciously, steadied herself with one hand behind her atop the bureau while the other hand was held out in their direction, palm out in a defensive gesture. But, if she was feeling very uneasy with the creatures now inching cautiously out of the bedroom closet, the animals in the room with her were in terror.

 

Amy had nestled deeply under the shredded newspaper of her cage, but her exercise wheel was vibrating where she was hunkered down against it and quaking. She didn’t make any other sounds.

 

Ms. Kitty Fantastico wasn’t attempting to be so quiet. She was currently at the closed bedroom door making a low growling sound. She was also standing on her hind legs, her front paws furiously scratching and pounding at the door to be let out and her head kept twitching around to watch for the small creatures who’d invaded her territory. Her growling was interrupted several times by hissing as she kept looking up toward the door handle and wondering why the woman in the room wasn’t letting her out before the things got too close.

 

“Do not be unduly alarmed,” al Rashid said in his comforting baritone. “These Shadowrealm Quesslers will not harm you,” his eyes twinkled in amusement. “But, they shall be of help.”

 

A few of the gremlins now hopped from the floor onto the bed and sniffed at the pillows and the comforter. Miss Kitty gave a high pitched cry of alarm as she saw them edging closer. Her efforts at pawing the door grew even more frantic.

 

Finally, Tara realized that the cat was trying to leave and she stepped over to open the door. Instantly, Miss Fanatastico vanished in a flash of fur and a long, loud mewl.

 

“I-I’m sorry,” Tara told Alican as she re-shut the door and glanced nervously at the little creatures. “T-They feel… strange to me.”


 

“Yes,” he nodded with sympathy. “They aren’t natural to this plain, and you are very sensitive to the Earth’s biological energy field. They also are highly resistant to magic, no doubt adding to your sense of unease. My dear wife reacts much the same way when they get into her garden at home.”

 

“And, you think they’ll be able to get to Giles?”

 

“I believe they can. They should be able to ignore his attempts at manipulating time. As well, he’ll find that his offensive spells will do little to discourage them. With he being so distracted, I believe we will be able to ‘storm his keep’, as it were. Hopefully, we can then neutralize him.”


 

“What will happen when they reach him? We don’t want Giles to be seriously hurt!”


 

“I understand. I consider him a good friend, as well. I believe if we act swiftly, we can limit his injuries. But I would see Rupert dead, before I will see him become the very thing he has spent his adult life battling. The magic he has used is vile… and very powerful. We must face the possibility that he has been corrupted beyond our ability to help. If this is so, I will kill him myself, rather than allow his very spirit to come to ruin.”


 

Tara nodded, scared, but understanding. She couldn’t bare the thought of losing Giles in either scenario, but she had no doubt that the man she knew would rather die for the world then become a victimizer of it. His sinking into the inescapable morass of darkness would be a direct violation of everything he believed in and everything he had worked so hard to instill in Buffy. He had given her the strength to do what she did; how could any of them fail to do whatever was necessary to save Giles from himself now, and still be able to claim to love him?


 

As these thoughts tore at Tara, two of the braver of the things had made their way within inches of her feet. They scented the air around her and continued cocking their heads side to side as they looked her up and down. They continued their odd chittering noises at one another and shared glances between them.


 

She chose to push the subject of Giles to the side for a moment, unable to imagine him dying in front of her… not after Buffy. It was more than she thought she could handle. And, if the worse came to pass, she wasn’t sure she had talked herself into going through with it if Alican was incapacitated.


 

“A-are they sentient… I could swear they’re talking about me?”


 

“Oh, I have no doubt they are. Sentience? It’s difficult to say, but they certainly have a sort of hive intelligence.”


 

Alican then snapped his fingers and the creatures immediately gathered again at his feet. He met Tara’s gaze, “I believe it is time to stop Rupert.”

 

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Ripper watched in amusement as the women twirled and swayed to the Vivaldi he had playing on the old stereo, though it wasn’t really music designed for erotic dancing. They had all stripped down to their undergarments at his command and were lost in dazed confusion as they clumsily went through the motions of dancing for his pleasure.


 

He was looking forward to later, when he could spend his time in orgiastic delight. He intended to release his hold over them just enough for them to be conscious of their fates while he hurt and humiliated them. Much later, he would add Willow to his harem, once he was sure that he could strip her of her troublesome magical abilities.


 

But all of that, as well as his plans for Sunnydale’s other residents had to wait. He’d again sensed his old friend, slipping between dimensions and arriving at his former Slayer’s. The half-demon man was going to be an irritant, no doubt.

 

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“Shall we,” al Rashid said as he walked backward toward the clothes closet.


 

“Uh, I think we should just take my car,” Tara said. She quickly opened the side table drawer next to the bed and began to stuff powders in a purse.


 

“The vehicle is at Giles’. And, I believe its best days are behind it,” he pointed out with what sounded very much like Spike’s smirk.

 

“I have another,” she insisted. Her previous trip into the space between had been more than enough for one lifetime.

 

“Very well,” he sighed. “Come along, my little darlings,” he sing-songed to the Quesslers. They only grumbled and chattered at one another as they followed in his wake.

 

When they reached the living room, they heard noises from the kitchen. Tara put her finger to her lips and then with a wave of her hands encouraged them to hurry out. She was relieved that she didn’t need to try to explain away all of this to Officer Watson.

 

Once they were on their way in her Escort, the drive being even more difficult through the rain, lightning and thunder than when they’d had the Cherokee, Tara mentioned the spell that she’d use. She tried very hard not to keep looking in the rearview mirror to check on what the little demons were doing. She imagined that her backseat was going to be torn up by all of the noise they were making behind her.

 

“The spell sounds promising,” he told her. Though, not exactly in a voice that sounded like he believed what he was saying.


 

“I’m sure it will work,” she said more to herself than to him. “I-it has to. It may be the only way to avoid really hurting him.”

 

“We can only do the best that we can. Our priority must remain simply stopping him and recovering the Book of Midnight.”

 

“Maybe we could destroy it as well. I mean, while we’re fighting…?”

 

“Doubtful,” he cast a sideways glance at her.

 

“Well, I choose to maintain hope,” she murmured defensively.

 

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Spike awoke feeling like the top of his head had been blown off. With a groan, he struggled to open his eyes, not knowing where he was or what had happened. He assumed that he’d pissed off Angelus again, or maybe Darla… this sort of beating usually had come when he’d insulted her.


 

As his eyes took in the concrete floor he was now lying on, lightning flashed outside filling the space with a dazzling brightness and bringing another loud groan from him. He quickly threw his hand in front of his eyes and cursed both Angelus and the obvious raging storm outside.


 

Suppose I should just be grateful that the brute didn’t throw me out of doors, the ponce. Wonder where Dru is… I hope she’s not with him, playing around.


 

When he felt he was ready to risk more pain, he unblocked his eyes and risked a quick look around. Nearby sitting against a wall, with two chair legs held in the approximation of a crucifix, was Xander Harris, the Slayer’s pal.


 

With a start, Spike came back to the knowledge of his current circumstance. His torturous pain wasn’t due to his ‘dear family’ this time, but had obviously been the chip reacting to something or another.


 

“Xan, you alright,” he said a bit too loudly. He immediately squeezed his eyes shut and hissed. “Damn, what a headache,” he said, a bit quieter.


 

When he opened his eyes again, Xander was staring at him wide eyed and fearful. He had his makeshift cross held out straight in front of him.


 

“Xan?”


 

“You tried to strangle me, you bastard,” Harris told him in a conversational voice, even as his glare seemed to penetrate to his core.


 

Spike slowly got into a sitting position, feeling the room sway despite the fact that he had squeezed his eyes tightly shut again. When he felt things settle down again, he reopened them and took in his companion. Xander was still holding his cross out in front of him and looked wary and betrayed.

 

“You know I wouldn’t hurt you,” he tried.

 

Xander made a noise to show his skepticism and gave him the ‘eyeroll of derision’.

 

“Really, Xan. You know me. You know that I wouldn’t hurt any of you… not anymore… not for awhile now. Think. What do you remember?”

 

“I-I don’t know,” he sounded confused to Spike. “I was at the house. We were eating dinner. N-now you’ve brought us here. Why?!”


 

“I didn’t bring you, Love. Hyena did.”


 

“N-no… she told me… you attacked us. She tried to fight you off and…,” Xander suddenly stopped at the look on Spike’s face. “… And, I’m a total idiot, believing anything that she said,” he blew out a breath and dropped his wood to the ground.

 

Heaving himself to his feet, he approached Spike and offered his hand. “Sorry. I was a bit confused when I suddenly came to, and… I don’t really remember what’s been going on. Everything is so hazy.”

 

Spike allowed himself to be helped to his feet. “No worries. Happens to the best of us. Are you alright… your throat?”

 

“Yeah. A bit raw. I’m assuming the chip zapped you a good one? And, that you were throttling Hyena for some reason? And where the hell are we? And, are you going to be okay?”

 

“One: yeah. Two: Yeah, again. Three: We’re in the sooper-secret hidey-hole of the Computer Programmer from Loserville. And four: I’ve got a headache to beat all, but I ain’t dust which means I’ll be fine. I’m thinking it was a close call though. The chip’s got a kick to it, I can tell you.”

 

“What are we doing here, Spike? And, what has she done that you turned on the vampire-grrr juice?”

 

“Vampire-grrr juice? I must have done more damage than you think,” he tried a grin.


 

Xander wasn’t about to be amused. “Forget that. What the hell has happened? Wh-what did we do? Is anyone else hurt,” he asked. The look on his face told Spike that he was afraid his hitchhiking animal spirit had turned on the others.

 

“We were attacked at the house. Warren, Adam… Aprilbot… you don’t recall?”

 

“No,” Xander scowled. “It’s a total blank after Tara was headed to answer the door.”

 

“Yeah. It was Adam at the door… and some vampires. I’m not sure what they did, but they got the Wicca to issue an invite. Then, all hell broke loose. You were with us for awhile, at least, but somewhere in there, she took over. You might have a concussion… things might come back to you, later.”


 

“The others?! Dawn?!”


 

“Relax. We all made it out a little worse for wear, but no major hurting. Anyway, Hyena was on a “you attacked the pack, now I’ve got to gut you” kick and she took off after the dipshits. I figured you wouldn’t be happy if I allowed her to kill ‘em, even though they would’ve gotten what was comin’ to them. I tried to get her to see reason, but she flipped and wanted to kick some ravishingly gorgeous vampire ass. The chip was gettin’ in the way of my stopping her before she could do something stupid. She threatened to kill you, Xan. I-I didn’t know if she could… I mean, she claims that she took out that other personality you told me about… it could’ve meant that she could do the same to you.”


 

“Jesus.”

 

“I had to put her down, fast, before she had the chance. Unfortunately, she must have switched places with you when I was winning, ‘cause next thing I know, my brain is being torn into pieces… or so it felt like, anyway.”

 

“And, then you wake up with me thinking… I’m sorry, Spike. I should have known immediately. I can’t believe I listened to a word that bitch had to say.”

 

“Well…,” Spike didn’t follow it up with anything. He couldn’t think of anything to say. Xander hadn’t trusted him… not really… not if he could so quickly think that he would try to hurt him.

 

“Guess we should get back to the house,” Xan looked guiltily away from him. “Check on the others….”

 

“We need to get rid of Hyena,” Spiked said. “You have to drink Tara’s potion, immediately.”


 

Xander looked at him again, and reluctantly nodded, “I guess.”


 

“Why the reluctance? Don’t you want to be free from this sort of shit,” Spike angrily asked.


 

“I-It’s nothing. You’re right. She’s too unstable. W-we should get this done before she wakes back up… whatever you did to her, she’s sacked out pretty hard. It sounds like a real storm from H-E-double-hockey-sticks is going on out there. Don’t suppose you brought my car?”


 

“’Fraid not.”


 

If they had given the raging storm a little thought, one of them may have realized that the only times they had seen storms this bad were when Dracula was around and when Giles had turned to dark magic against Glory. They may have realized that he needed their help, again. But, they were each far too preoccupied with Hyena’s actions, and Xander’s.


 

The air between them was suddenly fraught with tension.

 

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End Ch 21