34: Talisman

Double or Nothing

Chapter 34: The Talisman

“If something jumps out at us, I’ll have to yawn it to death,” Xander told Buffy as they leaned up against the wall of an old mausoleum.

“Patrol has been a bore,” the Slayer agreed glancing briefly at the full moon. “The only things out tonight are the werewolves and ours is locked up safe and sound at the library.”

Both Giles and Willow were on guard duty at the library watching over Oz. “I vote we go for pizza.”

Glancing around the quiet cemetery, Buffy had to agree. “It’s still early. I can always make another quick sweep before bedtime. Let’s go.”

Xander stopped in his tracks after the first few steps. “I just saw something.”

Whirling around, Buffy’s sharper vision immediately picked up what he was seeing. A figure was darting through the tombstones garbed in dark grey robes. “Looks like our pizza will have to wait.”

“What is it?” Xander asked.

Buffy shrugged as they followed behind at a fast pace. “I dunno. Creepy guy in a funny robe.”

“Demon in a funny robe,” corrected Xander as they got close enough to see that the creature wasn’t human. “All dressed up and no place to go.”

“You’re right. He’s not going anywhere,” Buffy eyed the demon determinedly. He was edging closer to the main part of town and she wasn’t about to let that happen.

Xander rummaged through the weapons bag he’d been hauling. “I think this calls for something more than a stake?”

“Nah. Don’t think I need anything for this one,” Buffy commented. “He looks kinda scrawny.”

“I was talking about me.” Xander reached in and traded his stake for a small axe.

Looking at him holding the weapon, Buffy sent Xander a doubtful look. It wasn’t as if he’d been training with sharp objects. “Maybe you should just wait for my signal.”

“Hey!” Xander complained. Unfortunately, he gained the attention of their quarry who turned around flashing a huge row of pointy teeth. “Uh, Buffster, guess who’s coming to dinner?”

Despite his willingness to fight, Xander knew better than to get in the middle of a one on one fight that Buffy felt certain she could handle. The Slayer could be far faster and more efficient with her demon kills without worrying about him. That did not mean he wouldn’t be ready to step in if needed.

As expected, Buffy made quick work of the creature who had been very put off by being delayed. He spoke no human language that the Slayer could drag out of him with her onslaught of quips as she taunted the demon throughout the fight; nothing that she could understand to hint at where the creature was headed in his ritualistic robes.

“He’s wearing a talisman,” Buffy commented to Xander as they carried the body to the nearest dumpster. “Grab it. We’ll head over to the library to show it to Giles.”

Xander shoved the circular talisman in his back pocket as the Slayer tossed the body into the trash. “It’s no wonder sanitation workers are so highly paid in this town.”

“Not all demons turn into clouds of dust. Someone’s gotta do it,” Buffy shrugged with complete carelessness. She was too desensitized to the idea. “God, now I’m starving. Let’s get back to Giles and order that pizza.”

“Um, have you talked to Giles lately?” Xander took the small opening. He had been hoping to get some idea of how Buffy was feeling since breaking up with Angel. Even though Willow had given him little updates, she had obviously left out details that fell into the category of girl talk.

“About what?”

Guess not. “Stuff.”

“Not lately,” Buffy admitted. She had purposefully avoid Giles the past couple of days, but the reason for Xander’s question seemed obvious even to her. He was still worried about her. “I suppose you mean the research about the Fates and why Angel is acting weird.”

“Uh— “ Xander didn’t know what she was talking about. He was just referring to the fact that the Watcher had asked him to keep an eye on Buffy’s ex-boyfriend because of his behavior. “There was research? I missed out on research?”

“Don’t sound so grateful,” Buffy commented. “He hasn’t even mentioned it to me in a while. Guess it turned out to be nothing.”

Considering the pile of books the Watcher had at his desk the night he asked Xander and Willow over to the house, he had to wonder about that. Giles simply told them of his concerns regarding Angel and felt someone should keep an eye on him. Nothing was mentioned about research.

Xander felt confused. “So this research on the Fates has something to do with Angel biting you?”

“Not specifically. I-I don’t really understand why that happened. Angel told me just a little bit about the deal with the Fates. That it could be dangerous. I thought it meant just during the split or that the dangers were all about letting Angelus loose,” Buffy admitted with a sad tone.

“So you knew about the research when you broke up with Angel,” concluded Xander with a stunned look.

Nodding, Buffy admitted, “Yes.”

That surprised him. Normally, he’d expect Buffy to go into overprotective mode and not leave the vampire’s side until Giles found a way to fix the problem. Instead, she broke off their relationship entirely. Maybe having your throat nearly ripped out and your blood sucked down by your boyfriend made that an exception.

“I’m worried about Cordelia,” confessed Xander practically blurting it out to her.

Buffy stopped cold turning to face him. “Why is it all the men in my life can’t seem to get Cordelia Chase out of their minds? Angel. You. I even caught Giles muttering her name the other day.”

“She is my ex,” he pointed out realizing that Buffy had no clue about what happened to Cordelia. Apparently Willow’s talks with the Slayer left out a few crucial details.

“That doesn’t answer the question,” Buffy grumped at him and started walking again. “So maybe you have an excuse. That doesn’t tell me why Angel is suddenly in love with her.”

Xander wasn’t certain that it was so sudden. It certainly wasn’t normal. “Angel was stalking her, Buffy.”

“What do you mean stalking her?”

“How else would I mean?” Xander caught her doubtful gaze. She obviously thought he was exaggerating. “He followed her to Harmony’s house and waited for her to come out. Lucky for Cor that Willow and I got there in time.”

Buffy’s face was a picture of puzzlement. “In time for what?”

“To save her.”

“From Angel?” A gamut of scenarios ran through her mind, none of them good.

Nodding, Xander told her, “I should’ve staked him.”

It was hardly the first time Xander had threatened to do so. Buffy realized that Giles’ concerns about Angel were well-founded. She had to admit, “I never really thought Cordelia would be at risk. That Angelus would let anything happen to her. Willow told me Cordy was back at her parents’ house while they were in town.”

“She knows more than I do,” Xander admitted feeling a little out of the loop.

“C’mon,” Buffy suggested they pick up the pace already walking a little faster. “I have a few questions for Giles and most of them have got nothing to do with that talisman.”

“Rosenberg. Willow Rosenberg. Spy extraordinaire,” mumbled the redhead as she selected the next website on her list. “Giles, I feel like I’m a double agent. Maybe a triple agent.”

“You’re not a spy, Willow,” he assured her. “It’s more like field work. Besides, you can’t be a double agent unless you’re working for someone else.”

Willow tightened her grip the computer mouse. Pouting, she admitted, “It’s kinda like that, actually. I’m running around town after Angel. Keeping Buffy up to speed. I did some hacking for Angelus. I’m researching and reporting to you. Now—”

“Hacking for Angelus?” Giles glanced up from the book he was reading. Purely a medical book, it was not his usual field of study. Psychobiology: Diagnosing and Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Personality Disorder and Multiple Personality Disorder.

“Stuff on Cordy’s parents,” Willow nodded. “Except I’m not supposed to tell anyone.”

“Then perhaps you’d better not tell me,” Giles commented wryly turning back to the book. Trying to apply psychobiology to vampires was not an everyday task and it required concentration.

Ensconced in the library, Giles normally would have been perfectly comfortable here, but it was the night of the full moon and Oz was currently locked up in the book cage in his werewolf form. His pacing and growling kept interrupting the Watcher’s train of thought. Willow’s added commentary just kept him distracted.

“Okay,” Willow agreed not to tell Giles anything about Daniel or Emelia Chase’s financial and legal problems. “Angelus isn’t gonna let anything happen anyway now that Cor is back at the mansion again. I’m sure Mr. Chase won’t have to go to jail. Cordelia told me that Angelus had taken care of it.”

Giles didn’t bother to point out that Willow had once again forgotten about revealing too much. As Daniel Chase’s potential jail time was not relevant to the problem at hand, the Watcher moved his attention back to the book.

Unfortunately, Willow talked as she browsed. “You really should’ve told me about all this sooner. Now I’m searching for stuff for Cordelia just because you haven’t asked me to do it.”

That had his full attention. There was a reason Giles had not informed Willow of the potential problems with the vampires. It had everything to do with her inability to withhold information. Knowing it, she would have revealed everything to Buffy in no time despite Angel’s original wishes.

“What stuff are you talking about?” Giles realized they were far beyond the point of holding anything back. On his own, this was taking far too long. Perhaps it was time to use Willow’s many-faceted skills to determine a cure.

“Stuff on the Moirae,” Willow told him. “Where to find them. Creating a summoning spell. You know— stuff.”

“Cordelia wants you to summon the Fates?” Giles was out of his chair, closing and slamming the book against the desk all in the same move.

Willow jerked back in reaction while her werewolf boyfriend gnashed his teeth at the sudden noise. Cordelia’s call came late this afternoon revealing to her everything Giles told her, asking Willow to find a way to get the Fates here to fix the problem. “Y-Yes.”

“Stop what you’re doing,” Giles felt like grabbing the computer mouse from her hand and flinging it across the room. “Willow, the Moirae are not Spirit Guides, totems or demons to be summoned to our plane of existence at a mortal’s whim. They can be cold and unmerciful when disturbed from their eternal task. Controlling them within a mystic summoning circle will be nearly impossible.”

The fear in the Watcher’s eyes was enough to get his point across, but it confirmed in her own mind that he knew she could get them here. Considering all of the spells Willow had previously cast, she felt confident if she learned enough about the Moirae that she could summon them. As Giles suggested, containing the power of the Fates and avoiding their wrath might be something else to consider.

“Probably not a good idea to tick off someone who can affect your destiny, huh?” She gave Giles a weak smile. Adding with a gulp, “Like cutting it off way early.”

“There are precedents,” Giles admitted. He had purposefully avoided them. “Others have summoned the Moirae to their own detriment. While death does not appear to be their immediate punishment, they often extract a heavy price further down the line. What Cordelia has asked you to do— we can’t take it lightly.”

Slumping back in her chair, Willow thought about it while watching the grim shadows in his eyes and her own reflection in his glasses. “You’ve been at this too long, Giles. You’re starting to sound like you’re looking for the easy way out. I can’t believe that the Moirae have rewarded Angel for whatever good deed he performed by doing something that results in killing him.”

A wry twist curled Giles’ lips as he responded to Willow’s accusations. “This has been occupying my mind for the last two months. I wondered the same thing. Your points are valid.”

The teenager thought so too, but let Giles finish talking.

“Who can say what the Moirae get out of this if anything? They may not care that it ends Angel’s existence while also killing Angelus in the process. They warned Angel it could happen before they sealed the deal. As far as they are concerned, separating the vampires may have ended their obligation to Angel.”

“But you don’t know that,” Willow protested. “You can’t know it unless they tell you.”

“It’s too dangerous,” Giles told her. “If it was just me involved, Willow, I would do it myself, but I do not possess the requisite mystic abilities. My knowledge of magick is insufficient to handle a spell of this magnitude. Though your abilities are innate, this is not something I want you involved in.”

Suggesting, “We can find someone else. Surely the Watchers Council knows people.”

“None who would dare take this on,” Giles scrapped that idea. Reinforcing his earlier statement, he stressed, “This is not a task to be taken lightly.”

“No, Giles,” Willow completely agreed. “This is serious. This is Angelus…and Angel. It may mean the difference between saving and destroying them.”

Seeing the determination in her eyes, Giles realized that Willow planned to continue this project with or without his consent and supervision. He admired her loyalty to her friends, but the dangers to her and all of them outweighed the consequences of a mystical cure for the vampires. There had to be another way and Giles was just as determined to find it via his research as Willow was in fashioning a summoning spell.

“I will help you Willow,” Giles surprised her. Adding firmly, “Under one condition. Do not tell Cordelia anything from here on out.”

Eep! “Nothing?”

“You damned well know she’ll come charging in demanding you cast that spell,” he told her. “Can you see yourself telling her no?”

Thinking about it, Willow still wasn’t certain she wanted to say no. “Uh… no?”

“Assuming you can create an appropriate spell,” Giles decided, “you must promise me that you won’t attempt it without my say so. It has to be our last resort.”

Nodding her reluctant agreement, Willow muttered, “Last resort. Got it.”


DoN Chapter 33          DoN Home          DoN Chapter 35

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