37: Confronting the Moirae
Chapter 37: Confronting the Moirae
Cordelia’s heart thudded with such fear and excitement that it seemed to echo in her ears. Summoning the Moirae meant getting answers. Explanations were due and she intended to get them no matter what it took. Despite her enthusiasm to have them fix the vampires’ problems, a strange sense of dread clouded the whole situation.
Tonight’s decision came so suddenly, rattling her nerves. Given the same news, Cordelia would not have delayed the casting of this spell, but it left no time to speak to Angelus about her talk with his brother. Postponing it until after the Moirae came and went. Until they took care of the mess they made. Once Angelus and Angel were out of danger, only then would Cordelia tell her mate that she discovered feelings for his twin.
She couldn’t understand how her heart could be so contrary when she loved Angelus the way that she did. After the incident at Harmony’s house, Cordelia truly thought she hated Angel. The discovery that her emotions went beyond the scope of their friendship and the concern she felt for his strange behavior shocked Cordelia. The feelings exposed after the demon battle and during their recent time alone together completely opposed that hate.
Loving Angel left a constant raw ache in her chest. Though undeniable, their love would go unfulfilled because it had to be that way. Other than acknowledging the fact that their feelings existed, nothing could be done. Not anything Cordelia could determine anyway. Angelus deserved to know the truth before he made the discovery on his own. Especially if became necessary to continue with Giles’ alone time theory for maintaining Angel’s psychological equilibrium.
Skirting the powdered edge of the circular symbol on the foyer floor, she headed directly for Angelus. The vampire had showered and changed clothes sometime between meeting up with Giles about the spell and now, a sign that patrol had been eventful. Cordelia ate him up with her eyes as she crossed the room finding the urge to touch him like needing air to breathe.
Powerful arms left bare by his black muscle shirt wrapped around her as Cordelia stepped close. Their bodies leaned into one another as their lips met in a long drugging kiss.
Interrupting, Giles cleared his throat and announced that he wanted everyone to head into the living room. “We must all be prepared for what is to come. Summoning the Moirae is not an easy task or one without dangers.”
The group filed back into the other room. Cordelia noticed that it was stocked with some of the things they used to prepare the foyer. A white flipchart had been set up on a table-top easel on the pool table. Pulling a face, Cordy realized this was going to be one of the Watcher’s historic lessons with the added bonus of his not-so-artistic renderings. They’d be lucky to get this spell cast tonight considering that his usual background information often took longer than killing whatever demon they’d been researching.
Picking up a black marker from the easel tray, Giles pulled the cap off attaching it to the bottom of the pen. “Does anyone have any specific questions or comments?”
Willow held up her hand as if she was in class at school. When he nodded, she suggested, “Since I know all of this already I’m going into the other room to meditate.”
“Certainly,” Giles readily agreed with the girl. She needed a clear head for this spell. The summoning itself would be dangerous enough without random thoughts distracting her during the process. “Good idea.”
Xander watched her escape and muttered, “I wanna meditate too.”
As soon as Willow was out of the room, Oz was asking, “Exactly how dangerous is this?”
Cordelia heard the concern in Oz’ voice. He stood there in his jeans and t-shirt, running a hand through his unkempt blond-spiked red hair looking more visibly nervous than she had ever seen him. Awaiting Giles’ answer with bated breath, Cordelia had not realized the act of summoning the Moirae would present a danger to the witch.
“There is some inherent level of danger with every spell that is cast,” Giles commented. “Willow has never attempted anything like the spell she will cast tonight. Its powers are steeped in darkness partially because of the talisman that must be used to activate it. She is determined to go through with it and I can see no other choice in the matter.”
Oz didn’t like the fact that his girlfriend was being placed in harm’s way, but knew that the Watcher was correct. Once Willow made up her mind about something, it was very difficult to dissuade her from pursuing that course. “Just tell us more about these Moirae and explain what we can do to help.”
In complete agreement with the werewolf’s request, Giles knew it was necessary to bring everyone onto the same page. While Willow knew all of the details of his research, none of those present had all of the information on the Moirae, the talisman or the spell to be used for its invocation. While it might not be necessary to tell them everything, Giles felt it important that they understand as much as possible about the situation before coming face to face with a group of higher beings.
“Let’s start with a brief rundown on the Moirae,” he suggested knowing that most of them were quite clueless. “There is quite a bit of historical documentation to be found, but most of it is rooted in Greco-Roman mythology where they are the personifications of destiny. Cross-referencing information with ancient demon texts and tomes indicates that the Moirae are powerful immortals linked to a group widely referred to as the Powers that Be.”
Buffy glanced over at Angel as Giles continued to talk. He was standing against the wall of the living room, his dark eyes focused on Cordelia. It had been weird finding them at the video store; especially because of the way they were behaving. When she arrived at the library with Xander, planning to talk to Giles about the incident, it was to find Angelus there.
The temptation to tell the vampire that his mate was running around town with Angel was almost overwhelming. Alone time? Like she was supposed to believe Giles would tell the soulless vampire he was going to have to share Cordelia with his brother? Angelus would rip his head off. Except, Buffy had to acknowledge, the evil vampire hadn’t been quite so evil. It was Angel who had been acting like a demon lately.
Returning her attention to Giles, Buffy tried to focus on her Watcher’s words. History lessons weren’t her usual thing after successful research. Stifling a yawn, she figured she might need a caffeine infusion by the time he was finished. Her thoughts sing-songed in her head. Bo-ring!
“Homer in his great works mentions only one Fate called Moira,” Giles referenced one writer from antiquity. “However, most others including the demonic texts which predate Homer’s work by millennia all agree that there are three Fates and use a pluralization of the term: Moirae.”
Angelus offered up a confirmation, “There are three. Klotho, Lakhesis and Atropos.”
“Now that we are on the verge of their summoning,” Giles suggested, “perhaps you and your brother will now share the circumstances of the promise and prophesy to which you alluded.”
“I can’t,” refused Angelus firmly as he unconsciously threaded his fingers through Cordelia’s. “That is part of the promise. Only the Moirae themselves can reveal it.”
With determination, Cordelia commented, “Oh, they will.”
Catching the gleam in her eye, Angel warned the brunette, “Don’t come across to them as threatening. Their powers to affect fate and destiny are more than myth.”
“Well the Fates will find themselves destined for a little ass-kicking if they don’t help you.” Cordelia warned that she wasn’t going to stay silent. Pfft! Threatening? Who was he kidding?
Giles worried about Cordelia’s reaction himself. Tact was not her forte. One just didn’t demand that higher beings follow one’s desires. Fortunately, the talisman normally used a conduit for communication with the demon god normally summoned by the Morvrak clan and Giles hoped the rules would remain the same here. That meant Willow would have to act as their spokesperson, but he figured that would be better than making it open season.
Picking up where he left off, the Watcher went on to say, mythologically speaking, that the Moirae were goddesses of birth, fate and death. Prophetic in nature, they revealed themselves through oracles and soothsayers only rarely appearing in physical form to the people of Mediterranean antiquity. Rarely did they interfere directly in human affairs, rather focusing upon larger events.
“The stories are much the same throughout the demon races with the exception that the Powers that Be have some influence over events, much like a war being waged or a game being played with Earth as the battlefield or gameboard.” Giles found it all unsettling, but fascinating at the same time. There were so many questions that had come up about Buffy and the origin of the Slayer during his research, a sidebar that he hadn’t had time to explore.
Leaning over the back of the couch, Xander asked, “So are these Powers the good guys or the bad guys?”
“Excellent question,” Giles pointed at him marker still in hand.
“Ooh! Do I get a gold star?”
Buffy elbowed Xander, “Teacher’s pet.”
“Class clown,” Cordelia corrected.
Sucking in a deep breath, Giles ignored them both in favor of turning to his flipchart. With a flourish, he scribbled on the paper. “Think of this as the universe,” he told them as he drew a square.
Quickly, the Watcher added words to each of the four corners of the square. Order in the top left corner, Good at the top right with Evil and Chaos occupying the bottom left and right corners. He drew a diagonal line from Order to Chaos and another from Good to Evil so that a large X formed inside the square.
Adding bi-directional arrows between the words, Giles then turned back to face the group expecting them to follow along. He thought the drawing self-explanatory, but considering the blank stares, they apparently needed a little interpretation.
“This explains Universal Theory,” he pointed at the chart.
Oz gave a nod, speaking up when the others remained silent or simply confused. “Order and Chaos are universal forces acting in opposition of each other. The same applies to the concepts of Good and Evil.”
“Yes,” Giles was relieved that someone understood. Pointing to the arrows, he further explained, “Order influences that which is Good and that which is Evil, but is in direct opposition of Chaos. The same works in reverse. Chaos also influences Good and Evil, but opposes the forces of Order.”
Buffy tried to follow along, but didn’t see where the Moirae fit into Giles little theory of the universe. So she rephrased Xander’s question, “Where do the Fates come in? Goodies or Baddies?”
“Just getting to that,” Giles told her as he selected a blue marker. With the motion of his wrist, he drew a circle at the center of the square so that the crosshairs of the X met in the middle. “On the chart, the Moirae occupy a spot at the center. They are neither Good nor Evil and owe allegiance neither to Order nor Chaos. They may determine and chart the path of destiny, but are subject to the whims of their own design and to the undeniable influence of free will.”
“In other words,” Cordelia’s eyes narrowed in understanding, “they play both sides of the field. That makes them dangerous.”
Confirming it, Giles answered, “Absolutely. Powerful beyond the scope of any beings we have ever encountered, the Moirae possess abilities we cannot begin to imagine. Only the fact that they have freely involved themselves with Angel and Angelus leaves us a small chance that we will not be censured for daring to summon them.”
Cordelia glanced around the room at the others, realizing that if this could get dangerous some people didn’t really need to take the risk. Straightening to a standing position, she released herself from her mate’s gentle hold and turned to face them. “Go home, Xander. You don’t need to be here.”
“What?” Xander bounded off the couch to protest.
“You either, Buffy,” she added quickly. “This may be dangerous, but we don’t need to have a Slayer tonight. If something happens, Sunnydale still needs you.”
“Forget it, Cor,” refused Buffy while crossing her arms over her chest. “I’m not leaving.”
“Neither am I,” put in Xander hurtfully. Maybe he didn’t like Angel, but that did not mean that he wanted to take the safe way out. Besides, he wanted to make sure that Psycho Vamp wasn’t going to be a threat to Cordelia, Buffy or anyone else.
Oz pointed out, “You didn’t ask me.”
“I figured you’d stay because of Willow.” The werewolf nodded silently. Cordelia had gotten that right.
“What does Will have to do to cast this spell?” Buffy asked her Watcher.
Giles told her, “It’s actually quite simple in a highly complicated way. The talisman will be used to open the dimensional gate and hold the Moirae to our plane of existence. Only Willow’s detailed study of their powers and circumstances will allow her any control to summon them at all. What she says is less important than what she believes to be within her abilities. If she thinks she can wield the talisman to summon the Moirae, she can do so.”
“So you’re also saying that if Willow doesn’t know enough about the Moirae, she’s just as likely to summon my Aunt Edna from Toledo?” asked Xander doubtfully.
Distractedly, Giles asked, “You have an Aunt Edna?” Only afterward realizing the boy was making a point, he added, “Technically, yes. That is why you must all focus your own thoughts on the success of Willow’s spell.”
“So we’re all here and informed and as ready as we’re gonna get, Giles,” urged Cordelia. “Can we get this thing started?
The instructions Giles provides were simple. They were all to stand in equidistant spaces around the circle each holding a small bouquet of dried herbs and flowers. Willow was at the top of the circle wearing the Morvrak talisman around her neck. Now only the soft glimmer of the candlelight staved off the darkness all unnatural lights having been turned off.
Silence reigned for several minutes until the soft voice of Willow Rosenberg spoke with gathering power as she invoked the magick that would activate the talisman.
“Infinite Moirae, Daughters of Night and Darkness, harbingers of fate and destiny, I call you from your dwelling place in the hidden halls of the universe. Stand before those who would seek your counsel.”
Willow paused for a fraction of a second and those gathered around the circle saw an aura of golden light surround the young witch with a brighter flash centering on the talisman.
“Come forth Klotho, spinner of life’s thread… Lakhesis, apportioner of lots… Atropos, the inevitable one… I summon thee to this earthly plane. By my will and the power of this talisman, I call you to appear before us.”
Warm beams of energy passed from person to person around the circle until the outer ring shone with a strange mystic light binding them with its power. Willow and Giles met each other’s gaze across the space of the circle, both realizing that the talisman was not supposed to work this way.
“Giles,” the teenager called out in a moment of panic. “I think something is wro—”
A powerful whoosh of energy suddenly sucked everyone toward the center of the circle snuffing out the candlelight and leaving them in darkness. Not even the vampires’ vision could pierce the black void that surrounded them. Angelus felt the rubbery sole of a shoe beneath his hand. “Who’s that?”
“Me,” answered Buffy. “Angel?”
“Try again, Buff.”
Muttering under her breath, Angelus heard the Slayer complain that it wasn’t her fault if she couldn’t tell them apart in the dark.
“Are we all here?” Giles’ voice queried from nearby. “Willow?”
“Over here.” Sounding embarrassed by the whole thing she started to apologize to the group even if she couldn’t see them. In fact, the darkness made it a little easier. “Maybe I did something wrong.”
Giles rushed to assure her, “You were doing a superb job.”
“Then what happened?” Willow wailed in confusion. “I don’t understand.”
While Willow babbled on, Cordelia found herself lying on the ground with a hard body sprawled across her. Angel, obviously. If she hadn’t already known that Angelus was somewhere to her left, Cordelia would have guessed immediately which vampire this was simply because of the way he was taking advantage of the darkness.
Lifting his weight off of her, Angel’s hand followed the shapely route of her leg from ankle to thigh teasing at the edge of her skirt. Cordelia’s hand came down to stop his progress and she heard a soft chuckle in her ear as he leaned in close. “This could be fun if you let it,” Angel smiled against the soft skin of her throat as he nuzzled her.
“Move it,” Cordelia whispered back only to have his mouth unerringly find hers even under the cover of darkness.
A teasing caress, his firm lips brushed over hers causing a warm rush of air to escape from her mouth in a long sigh. Angel pulled back to help Cordelia to her feet. No matter that he’d prefer to keep on kissing her, there were more important things to figure out right now.
“Cordy and I are over here,” Angel informed the group as Giles continued his roll call.
The Watcher had already figured that out being closer than some of the others. Close enough to hear them whispering even if he couldn’t make out the details. “Uh, very good. Oz? Xander?”
Both guys responded.
“Now what?” Buffy asked the group moving in the darkness out of instinct.
Like a sudden sunrise, light filtered in the distance brightening a marbled hall at the end of a short tunnel. Obviously, they were no longer inside the mansion.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” Xander commented as he found Buffy standing by his side.
Angel and Angelus exchanged a look. Having dealt with the Moirae before, neither one found this surprising or unfamiliar. “The Fates have chosen we come to them.”
“So much for my spell,” Willow muttered again as she looked down at the talisman.
Giles patted her on the shoulder. “Your spell worked. Just differently than intended.”
“Let’s go,” Cordelia urged. “Standing around isn’t going to get us any answers.”
She was already headed in the direction of the tunnel when the two vampires caught up with her. The rest of the group followed closely behind.
Exiting the tunnel, they emerged into a large pillared chamber designed like a Greek temple. Other than a brief glance at their surroundings, all eyes were focused on the three women at the center of a dais. They were surrounded by thread, colorful cloth and piles of tattered fiber as they busily continued at their tasks until the group reached the dais.
“Sisters, they have come,” the woman in the center looked at them with eyes of vibrant violet from a face that otherwise appeared traditionally Greek. Her dark ebony hair was swept up into an intricate twist and decorous braids. A colorful tapestry lay across her lap covering much of the purple gown.
Pausing in their tasks of spinning threads and snipping them, the two other women took a long look at the new arrivals. Sitting at a huge spinning wheel, the first one looked to be a younger version of the others. Those same piercing eyes stared back at them from a face suffused with youth and beauty. Loose midnight hair fell in long waves down her back.
“They have brought my vampire,” the young one stood slowly, her lilac robes shifting and revealing a large rounded belly.
Angel and Angelus sent each other confused looks after noting the Fate’s pregnant condition. This was the first time she had appeared to them this way though, as Giles pointed out earlier, she was the embodiment of life and childbirth. Still, Angel had to ask, “Klotho?”
An amused titter filtered from her mouth as Klotho glanced toward her other sisters. It was the eldest Fate who spoke next. “Are you so anxious to meet your destiny, vampire?”
Giles watched the exchange with rapt fascination. This elderly woman with silvered hair had to be Atropos. She held her scissors in one gnarled and wrinkled hand while the other pulled at the loose threads from Lakhesis’ tapestry.
“It would be easy to arrange,” she sounded out a cackle as she snipped the scissors closed across a series of the threads. “Just like that.”
Her voice was as cold and merciless as the grave, Giles decided with morbid interest as he remembered that was what this Fate represented. The end of life. The final destiny. The inevitable outcome to all things.
Angel held up his hands cautioning Atropos against any hasty decisions. “We are here for answers and a little help.”
“Have you not had enough of our assistance?” Lakhesis asked him with distinct curiosity. “This thread must be played out to its conclusion. You—”
“Look, lady,” Cordelia cut her off, “I don’t care if you’re like the Red Cross for vampire assistance. Mine need help because your spell went wrong and is making them psycho.”
Lakhesis slowly rose to her sandled feet placing the tapestry upon the stool she had vacated. “Do not deign to threaten us, daughter. You know naught of our dealings with the vampire.”
“Clue me in.”
“Agreed,” answered Lakhesis so calmly that it diffused some of Cordelia’s suddenly hot temper. “I shall reveal all, but first I would have us formally meet those present, for there is much to say to your companions. Beginning with the one whose spell interrupted our weaving.”
Willow grabbed Oz’ arm as three sets of identical eyes turned toward her. “M-Me?”
“Know you the price for interference, child of chaos?” Lakhesis inquired finding a fearful expression on the redhead’s face. There would be more fear in the days and years ahead. Fear. Sadness. Love. Loss. Anger. “Yours will be a rocky path until your true potential is achieved.”
Giles dared to step forward. “This was my idea. Do not take it out on Willow.”
“The witch will follow her own course of destiny, Rupert Giles. Take care to focus upon your own,” Lakhesis looked deeply into his eyes as she spoke. “Fate’s path shall take you from that which you hold most dear during a critical juncture.”
That which I hold most dear? Giles asked himself what she might be referring to and could come up with only one conclusion. He glanced over at Buffy whose eyes were already trained upon him. Taken away at a critical juncture? When? How?
Too many questions rattled in his brain as Giles turned back to Lakhesis, but the woman was already focusing on the Slayer herself. “Greetings, Chosen One. You honor our hall with your presence.”
“I do?” Buffy gaped a little before remembering her manners. Maybe she could convince the Moirae to change their minds about punishing Willow and Giles. “Um, Hi.”
Before she could make her point, Lakhesis held up a hand of silence. “Do not seek to interfere in the fates of others within our hallowed halls. Know that your own destiny is unique even amongst your own kind.”
Buffy frowned and commented to Xander who stood next to her, “Kinda cryptic.”
“Xander Harris.” The sound of his name startled the teenager.
“Haven’t done a thing to bother you. Nope. Just standing here,” Xander grinned widely while hoping to avoid any prophesies that told him something he didn’t want to hear.
To his surprise, a slow smile curled the woman’s lips. Observing him for several seconds of silence, Lakhesis told him, “You are loyal to your friends.”
As her attention moved on, Xander found himself asking, “What? No sneak peek into my future?”
“Shh!” Buffy cautioned him.
Lakhesis paused, turning back to Xander. “Very well, child of order. Know that your path follows the Chosen One.”
“Oh.” Xander could deal with that. “Okay.”
“Daniel Osbourne,” called out Lakhesis drawing the werewolf out from his position at the witch’s side.
He commented politely, “I go by Oz.”
“Fate has already taken a turn in your life,” Lakhesis referred to the bite that turned him into a werewolf. “Your true nature calls to you from the depths of your being, child of chaos. Seek enlightenment or the darkness will take you.”
Cordelia watched as the cool violet eyes turned upon her. “So now it’s my turn? I’m not interested. Just tell me about Angelus and Angel.”
“Be not so hasty in your decisions, daughter,” Lakhesis cautioned. “For your fate remains entwined with the vampire. Do you not desire to know your future?”
“No.” Cordelia didn’t want to hear it, especially because Lakhesis seemed all too eager to share the information. “You already know what I want.”
“Oh, yes, Cordelia Chase. I do.”
“Enough, Lakhesis,” growled Angelus as he placed a hand on Cordelia’s hip to draw her into the protection of his arms. “You Moirae did not bring us here on a whim or simply because Willow cast the summoning spell. There is a purpose behind it beyond our own.”
Atropos commented, “The vampire senses that his destiny draws near, sister.”
“Agreed, but the others remain ignorant,” Lakhesis concluded as she glanced from one to the other. “Perhaps it is now time to reveal what lies ahead with a look back at what came before.”
An excited sound emerged from Klotho as she clapped her hands together merrily at the idea of sharing details. Moving away from her spinning wheel, the youngest Fate approached the two vampires with a lightness of step that defied her gravid state. She gave each one a cheeky smile dimpling at their identical stares before turning her attention to Cordelia who was not at all pleased with the flirtatiousness of this higher being.
The eyes that met hers were unlike any Cordelia had ever seen, not only their violet hue, but also the mysteries hidden within their depths. Klotho’s gaze seemed to draw her in. “Shall I tell you of my first meeting with your vampire? Except that he was not a vampire then, but human like you.”
First meeting? Human? Cordelia’s thoughts were spinning as she realized that the Moirae had been even more involved than she imagined.
No words were spoken between them, but the understanding was clear enough that this was something Cordelia wanted to know. Their surroundings seemed to shift out of focus and when things settled again, the entire group found themselves at a small estate in the countryside.
Klotho told the vampires, “The sunlight shall not harm you. This is only the illusion of memory.”
“Where are we?” Xander asked Buffy as he looked over the lush greenery of the distant hills and watched as people milled about the place wearing strange costumes.
The Slayer was trying to piece all of this together. “We’re being shown Angel’s past, so my guess is Ireland.”
“Galway, Ireland,” Klotho told them helpfully. “As you understand your calendar, the year is 1750.”
Giles commented, “Three years before Darla made Angelus.”
“Do be quiet, dear Watcher,” Klotho admonished him for interrupting. “Observe and you will understand the nature of our dealings.”
The door to the main house suddenly opened to reveal an angry man recognizable despite his longer hair and period clothing. He slammed the wooden door shut with such force that it shook on its hinges. A stern voice came from the other side. “Get back in here ya young lout. Liam, ye’ll not talk ta me that way.”
Liam was already half way across the yard headed for the stables by the time his father finished his rant. “Who is he ta tell me what ta do? I wilna be stuck here forever.”
Turning the corner of the house, he disappeared from view forcing the group to run after him. Klotho picked up the edges of her robes. “Step carefully now. The horses have been here.”
“Couldn’t you just zap us over there?” questioned Xander as he avoided stepping into a large pile of horse manure. “Eew!”
“This is more fun,” came the Moira’s response as she tiptoed toward the stables. “Do hurry or you’ll miss my grand entrance.”
Cordelia and Buffy were ahead of the rest of them, both determined to learn more about the Fates’ dealings with the man who would eventually become Angelus. Even though Buffy was technically not supposed to care anymore, she asked in irritation, “Did you see the way Klotho looked at Angel?”
“At both of them,” Cordelia complained as her long strides carries her across the yard in swift measure. “She’s supposed to be the Fate of Life, but she’s all cute and dimply. Fate of Sluttiness is more like it.”
Buffy would have commented about Klotho looking ten months pregnant, but the two of them arrived at the stables with the others following close behind. “Oops! We missed the flashy entrance.”
Cordelia commented while focusing in on what she was seeing, “Looks like Miss Divine Being has Liam cornered.”
“Where did ya come from?” Liam looked more than just surprised to find a woman in his family’s stables, especially one so slim and beautiful wearing a diaphanous gown.
“I am Klotho,” she introduced herself. “Know me as one of the three Fates. I possess the key to your future.”
Liam gave the woman a hard stare. “Are ya daft?”
“I speak true, Liam, for I am fashioning a grand and glorious destiny for you should you choose to play the game,” Klotho revealed sashaying a little closer.
A smirk played at the corners of Liam’s mouth as his dark brown gaze traveled over the curvaceous form of the stranger. “What game is that?”
It seemed obvious from his tone that games of a sexual nature came to his mind. Those were games he knew well. “The game itself is beyond your comprehension, but you can be a major player if you so choose. Play or live out the rest of your days on this estate never realizing your true potential.”
“Ya sound like my father,” complained Liam. “Always wanting something. If ya can do what ya say, then you must be a witch.”
“If that is how you can comprehend my existence,” Klotho chose not to deny it. “What say you to my offer?”
Liam figured this was all likely a dream. Hadn’t he been drunk again last night? One of those tavern wenches probably had dark hair. Klotho didn’t look like a tavern wench, he had to admit. “What is it ya want from me?”
Dimples appeared as she smiled at him, drawing him out of his suspicious state back to one where his mind was focused on other matters. Reaching out, Klotho touched his face and ran a finger down to the vee of his shirt where his bare chest showed through. “Just you, Liam. Three times will I appear to you including today. Fulfill my desires and the destiny I revealed will be yours.”
Cordelia didn’t care that these events happened over two centuries before; she didn’t like the fact that Klotho was seducing the human version of her guy. “Hands off, you bimbo.”
Chuckling, Angel reminded Cordelia, “I didn’t know you then. There wasn’t a reason to say no.”
“Pfft!” Glaring at the Moira, Cordelia sent her a harsh stare. Klotho only giggled in response while combing her fingers through her loose ebony hair.
“Oh dear!” Giles pulled away from the stable doorway dragging Buffy back with him. “It appears that Liam accepted Klotho’s offer.”
“What do you have to say about all this?” Cordelia demanded of Angelus.
The vampire shrugged. “That wasn’t me.”
Angelus looked over at the other men in the group. “Would you have said no?”
Giles, Xander and Oz found themselves under severe scrutiny by Buffy, Cordelia and Willow. Even Klotho appeared interested in their response. Simultaneously, they all answered, “Absolutely,” and “Uh-huh,” and “Yep.”
“Good answer,” Cordelia figured they were lying through their teeth. Trying to ignore the sounds emanating from the stable, she turned back to Klotho. “So you seduced Liam into agreeing to your grand plan. What was that? To let Darla turn him into a vampire? Was that your glorious destiny?”
“Liam never saw Klotho again,” Angel informed her, glancing back over his shoulder having been watching the show. “In fact, after this day, he forgot all about her.”
Angelus nodded in agreement with his brother. “Until Darla arrived and caught his eye. That’s when he realized his only destiny was going to be death.”
Klotho walked over to him. “Do you have any idea how interesting a vampire is to the Moirae? We who deal in birth and life and death normally see existence in linear fashion. But you are different. You live and die only to become something new until your final destiny comes as it does to all who exist.”
“Get on with this, Klotho,” he took her arm in his hand. For a moment, she looked at it as if considering some punishment, but the Fate only winked in response.
“You don’t want to stay until this scene plays out?” She seemed surprised. “Things are about to come to a climax.”
Giles cleared his throat. “I’m certain that they are, but it is unnecessary for us to remain.”
“Pooh! You’re no fun at all,” Klotho pouted. “Not like you used to be.”
The Englishman frowned. These Moirae were a little too omniscient for his liking. “Shall we continue?”
“No,” Angelus had another idea. “Why don’t I just summarize. Faster that way.”
Letting out a deep sigh, Klotho rolled her eyes. “Very well, Angelus, but let’s add some atmosphere.”
With the snap of her fingers, their party was swept away from Galway to another part of the world at a more dangerous time. The gloom of night was brightened only by a series of flickering street lights.
“This is London,” Angelus explained even as he soaked up the sights, sounds and smells surrounding them. “I forget the year. Sometime before I turned Dru.”
“Before 1860,” Giles put in recalling the date.
Angelus nodded. “The date isn’t really important. Darla was off at her dressmaker and I was planning a little trip to St. Catherine’s.”
“Is that a convent?” Buffy questioned as she subconsciously fingered the stake tucked in her belt. She knew Angelus had done some evil things in his day, but she certainly hoped that Klotho wasn’t about to lead them all to a bird’s eye view.
“I had a thing for convents,” Angelus shrugged apologetically.
Cordelia slapped him on the arm. “So what happened on the way to the convent?”
“I ran into her,” Angelus nodded in Klotho’s direction. “Somehow, I recognized her even after a hundred years. She claimed to be there to follow up on my promise to her.”
Getting impatient, Klotho complained, “Angelus doesn’t want you to see what happened, but he’s hedging on telling you the truth. The Moirae do not deal in lies, vampire. I will show them and you may deal with the consequences as you will.”
A low growl emerged from Angelus’ throat.
“Turn your eyes to the convent,” Klotho pointed a finger and as their eyes followed its course they suddenly appeared along the outer wall. “That is where you will find the vampire.”
Angelus roughly pinned the woman against the convent wall. “You again. How is this possible, witch?”
“I am no witch, but one of the Moirae,” Klotho shrieked as he held her down. In this form she was no more vulnerable than any other, but it was fun to play the game. Only rarely did she or her sisters venture out of their protected hall to interact with those mortals whom they held interest. “It is time for you to fulfill the next part of your bargain. Only then will you take the next step toward your destiny.”
“My destiny?” Angelus laughed coldly. “I am a vampire. You think I need you to create some glorious future for me? If I want it, I’ll make my own.”
“Believe that if you will, vampire, but the Moirae are not finished with you yet.” Klotho told him as Angelus buried his face in the crook of her neck.
He seemed confused by what he sensed. “You smell human. Your heart pumps. Blood courses through your veins.”
“It is illusion,” the Fate informed him. “Partake of me if you will, vampire, but only if you give me what I need.”
“Omigod!” Buffy gasped as Angelus buried his fangs in Klotho’s bare throat.
Watching himself with the willing Fate, Angelus knew all too well what was coming next and he demanded that Klotho take them away from the scene. He didn’t want Cordelia to have any more reminders about his past. “Don’t look,” Angelus cupped her face turning it away from the scene. “Baby, I don’t want you to see that.”
Tears glistened in her eyes as she heard the material of Klotho’s gauzy dress rip away and the voice of her mate tell the other woman that he wanted to hear her scream.
Whipping around to face the Moirae guide, Cordelia demanded to know what was going on. “Why was this necessary?”
“I am creating a champion for the Powers that Be,” Klotho gave her a gentle smile. “My methods may appear strange to you, but they exist as such only because you comprehend it to be this way. The Moirae are not corporeal entities, but we are if you believe us to be such.”
Cordelia watched Klotho’s hand circle around her hugely pregnant belly. “Creating a champion with Angelus’ help? He’s a vampire. They don’t—”
“There is much you do not understand, daughter,” Klotho’s smile was empathetic. “Be patient. When this night is through, you will understand the fullness of my meaning.”
Focusing on anything except the screaming in the background, Willow pointed out, “I’m sensing a pattern. First Liam. Then Angelus. Is the third visit to Angel?”
Klotho made an elegant gesture with her hand and London fell into a fog behind them to be replaced by more familiar surroundings. A city with tall buildings and old-fashioned cars. “Los Angeles circa 1952. That large building across the street is the Hyperion Hotel.”
“Never heard of it,” Cordelia commented. “Not exactly the Regent Beverly Wilshire or the Ritz Carlton, I take it.”
“Not exactly,” Angel found himself frowning at the sight of the hotel.
Cordelia started to walk across the street, “Let’s go.”
Angel latched onto her arm pulling her back to the sidewalk. “We don’t need to go in.”
“Why not? If Klotho made me watch Angelus getting bitey and groiny with her, I’m sure she’s not planning to let you off for good behavior.”
“I’m not at the hotel when she comes to me,” Angel explained and realized that there was no real reason why Klotho had to bring them to this spot other than to make him look at the Hyperion again. “Why are we here?”
Klotho arched a dark eyebrow at the question. “Does it have to mean something? Perhaps I am putting things into context for your companions.”
“Doubtful.” Angel wasn’t feeling excessively patient at the moment. “I’ve had enough of your games, Klotho. Take us to the planetarium.”
“There’s nothing going on over there. The hotel is more interesting,” she pointed out. He growled at her causing the Moira to huff in response to his temper. “Very well, vampire.”
Klotho brought them up close and personal. The Angel of 1952 was only a few feet away staring out at the Los Angeles skyline and the glittering stars shining overhead. The city’s famed planetarium was behind him bathed in light and making the white stone of its structure gleam. Angel was not here for the show that night, but the view was a different story.
The sound of footsteps behind him caused him to throw his cigarette to the ground as he whirled around, “I told you to go inside—”
It wasn’t the tearful Judy who had seen him standing there and come over to talk about the suicide at the hotel or to thank him for her interference with the man she claimed was her boyfriend. Klotho stood before him, her long hair and gauzy lilac gown blowing in the breeze. The people who had been milling about the outside of the planetarium had all vanished, either by her power or the simple reason of going in to watch the show.
“It is time, vampire,” Klotho extended her hand. “Share of your essence and you will find your heart’s desire. Destiny will be yours to claim.”
Angel took hold of her arms, his hands gripping the woman more tightly than necessary. “I thought you were done with your games. What destiny? I am a vampire cursed with a soul. You’ve interfered long enough.”
“Longer than you know,” Klotho told him. “From the moment of your conception have I spun the thread of your existence and when Atropos snipped your life away, I spliced it together again.”
Shaking her by the shoulders, Angel barely contained his anger. “Get away from me. You have no right to use me as your pawn.”
“You gave me the right,” Klotho reminded him, “with your promise and by accepting my terms to three visits.”
“This visit is over.”
Angel released her and turned back to stare out at the view. Only the woman did not leave as he hoped. She stepped up behind him to say, “Fate will find you, vampire. Wander where you will, brood and glower in the darkness of your own existence, but know that one day I shall have my way.”
He ignored her in favor of watching the moving lights of the cars along a boulevard, but Klotho’s words still sounded in his ears. Placing something in his pants pocket, she told him, “This charm is yours. Safeguard it for it will call you to the hall of the Moirae when you are ready. I desire completion of my mission, vampire. Come to me and I will assure your request is fulfilled.”
After a moment or two of silence, Angel asked, “What request?”
Spinning around, he realized that Klotho had vanished.
Cordelia stalked forward before Angelus could stop her and was now standing directly in front of the 1952 Angel who was staring at the charm he had removed from his pocket. In an instant, his expression returned to that blank stare that Cordelia used to associate with Angel’s deepest brooding sessions.
“You’re so sad,” Cordelia reached out to touch Angel only to find that her hand passed directly through as if she was completely intangible. “So lonely.”
Joining her, Klotho reminded her that this was only illusion. Then looking back at Angel, she added, “It is a broken man who stands before you. A vampire cursed with his human soul. One who cannot separate himself from the pain and anguish he has caused time and time again.”
“You did this,” Cordelia accused as she turned on Klotho unable to stay silent. “Fates or Moirae or whatever you are. You arranged it all to suit your own plan. Darla. The gypsies and their curse. They’re all part of some big picture.”
“They are part of the tapestry of the vampire’s existence,” Klotho admitted. “Just as you and your companions have your own life threads, so too does the vampire. It is the eternal task of the Moirae to maintain the balance between Order and Chaos, Good and Evil.”
Buffy had been silent for a long time, unable to find her voice after the shock of seeing the soulless version of her former boyfriend in action during his heyday. Now things had finally started to gel together as she put all of it into the context of her own circumstances and existence. “Are you saying that he was Chosen?”
“In a way.”
“Chosen for what?” asked Angelus.
Angel sounded out a dark laugh as the question drew a look of surprise from the others. “You’ve been watching what happened. Why would you think we know any more than you do? Poor Liam never stood a chance. Some seductive witch comes along, promises him a grand future and all she wants in return is a roll in the hay and two more liaisons.”
Giles had the decency to blush as he admitted, “No doubt difficult to turn down.”
“Pfft!” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “From what I’ve been told, Liam would’ve been looking for the second and third hay rolls right away.”
“Cordy!” gasped Willow.
The brunette shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s true. Just ask Angelus.”
Green eyes darted in the vampire’s direction. She wondered what stories he had told his mate about his human years and his days as the Scourge of Europe.
Klotho interrupted them, deciding that it was time to move on. “Discuss these pittances at another time. It is time to return to the Great Hall and rejoin my sisters.”
Just as before, the scene faded to a white haze only to be replaced by a new location as the fog cleared. Lakhesis and Atropos greeted their sister upon her return with a silence that seemed full of questions.
“It is as I feared,” Klotho revealed. “They have seen all, but know nothing. These lower beings are so difficult to reach.”
“You reached my vampires easily enough,” Cordelia muttered.
Lakhesis held up a hand to beacon them forward. “Come, my children. Gather before us and I shall impart to you the knowledge you seek.”
“Why don’t I ask the questions,” Giles suggested to the rest of the group.
Cordelia glared at him for suggesting it, but saw no reason not to let him give it a whirl. That wouldn’t stop her from jumping in if necessary. Flashing him a grin, “Go ahead.”
Angel and Angelus were of a similar mind. Let the Watcher talk, gather information and step in if they weren’t getting the answers they needed. “Fine” and “Fine” were their responses. Seeing no reason to disagree, Buffy, Xander, Willow and Oz nodded their consent.
“You have shown us images of the past,” Giles began after a nervous tug on his collar. “Klotho has revealed that Angel and Angelus are part of some long-term scheme to create a champion.”
There was no denial by the Moirae. Lakhesis merely continued to give the Watcher her full attention.
Glancing over at Klotho’s huge belly, Giles commented, “By the looks of things, I’d say your plan seems to have worked.”
Again, there was no confirmation or denial. The three Fates were now seated on their stools again in the same positions as when they first arrived. Noting that neither one seemed to be responding, Angelus leaned over to the Watcher. “They’re waiting for an actual question.”
“Oh!” Giles realized he hadn’t actually asked one. “Angel obviously used the charm given him to contact Klotho again. He asked for your help in securing his soul and to separate him from Angelus’ influence. You warned him of the dangers ahead and now we are seeing sequelae in the form of psychological manifestations.”
Cordelia grabbed the sleeve of his tweed coat, “Questions. Ask them. Now.”
“What did you do, why is this happening and can you fix it?” Giles blurted.
“Sheesh! I could’ve asked that myself,” Xander grumbled having expected a tough inquiry from the Watcher.
The Fates were smiling, even toothless Atropos. Speaking for her sisters, Lakhesis told them, “Your questions are not unexpected nor are they unworthy of answers. The vampire appeared in our halls and made his plea. As was the understanding, his arrival came with a price which he paid.”
“Wait a second,” Buffy strode forward and whirled Angel around to face her. “Is she saying what I think she’s saying?”
“Back off, Slayer,” Angel growled removing his arm from her powerful grip. Cordelia immediately stepped over to try to keep him calm. Buffy’s presence wasn’t exactly one to help maintain his cool these days. “You heard Klotho’s terms. I did what I had to do. It got you what you wanted.”
Buffy’s lower lip trembled under the weight of his stare. “Until you went wacko on me.”
“All is as we designed it to be,” Lakhesis revealed. “Before his human birth, this entity drew our attention. Through Liam’s human life and death we watched and observed. As a vampire, Angelus made a name and built a reputation amongst his kind like few before him. Until the interference of a gypsy curse waylaid him.”
“It always comes back to the curse,” Xander pointed out as he sat down on the ground.
Lakhesis looked at him with disdain. “That is hardly showing respect for superiors. Be seated properly if you must.”
Xander suddenly found himself in a large leather recliner with his feet propped up. Giles was next to him in what looked like the chair from his living room. In a similar chair, Oz and Willow were sitting together with the witch on his lap. Buffy was stretched out on a chaise lounge while Cordelia sat between the two vampires on a small sofa.
“Comfy?” Lakhesis asked Xander.
Nodding, he gave her a show of thumbs up while silently vowing to keep his mouth shut for a while. “This is great.”
Returning to her oration, Lakhesis described the events leading up to the curse. Cordelia suddenly found herself confused as to which vampire she was supposed to feel sorry for. Was it Angelus who was cursed or Angel who had to live with the results? The past was past, but this discussion couldn’t be pleasant for either one of them.
Cordelia leaned over to kiss Angelus. Giving her an encouraging smile, he took her hand into his. “It’ll be okay, baby. We’ll get through this together.”
“All of us?” The questions came as a whisper from her lips still overtly conscious of the fact that she had no opportunity to talk to her mate about Angel.
“We’re still a family,” Angelus answered only to find as he lifted his head that Atropos was staring in his direction catching him talking no doubt.
Swiftly, Angelus turned his attention back to Lakhesis. She was much easier on the eyes than the old crone who appeared to be waggling her eyebrows in his direction. “The curse not only returned the human soul to the vampire, but it did so in a way that created two primary personalities, one that was pure Angelus and the other who was forced to endure the existence of the first.”
Giles turned to Angel, asking, “You were aware of this? That Angelus existed separately from your own personality.”
“When I asked for the Moirae to remove Angelus’ influence,” Angel told the Watcher, “I wasn’t asking them to take away my past. I wanted him out of my head.”
Angelus pointed out, “I had to put up with you, too.”
“The curse caused disparity and imbalance where none existed before.” Lakhesis sighed, “The vampire proves my point.”
Giles sat up and tugged at the lapels of his jacket upon hearing the information about the curse. “Imbalance was my theory, too, except I didn’t realize that it happened with the curse. I assumed that it was a result of your separation spell.”
“You assume quite a lot, Watcher,” the Moirae speaker pointed out. “Sometimes that is a necessary task. However, now you seek to interfere in a process which has taken centuries to unfold.”
Angel’s eyes narrowed upon Lakhesis with sudden clarity. “You knew this would happen when you agreed to my terms.”
“You are dealing with the Moirae, vampire,” Atropos cut in, “not with some simpleton soothsayers or sorceresses.”
Protesting at the reference, Willow heard herself shout, “Hey!”
The old crone’s piercing violet eyes turned to the redhead. “Do not take offense, witch. We are as far beyond your censure as you are beyond being a simpleton.”
Lakhesis smoothed things over and waited until Atropos resumed her seat. “We Moirae are not all-powerful though our abilities can bend events and situations to our will. It was our desire that the vampire’s request be granted despite the danger to our own plans.”
“Why would it interfere?” Buffy asked, still irritated that Angel had gone to the Fates when she would have told him not to do so. “He already agreed to keep his promise to Klotho. Miss I’m-Creating-A-Champion. This only happened a few months ago, so why does she look like she’s having a baby elephant?”
“Buffy!” Giles gave her a harsh stare. Insults and accusations were not likely to get them the answers they needed. “The pregnancy is metaphorical. Things are not as they seem. Remember what Klotho told us about the Moirae?”
“No,” Buffy admitted blinking in confusion. A metaphorical pregnancy? Huh?
Giles removed his glasses and cleaned them with the end of his tie. “The Moirae are not corporeal beings. They have no true physical form as we know it.”
“Do not concern yourself with such, Chosen One,” Lakhesis suggested. “These matters are no longer within your purview.”
The Slayer followed the Moira’s glance which had settled upon the three occupants of the couch. With slow dawning, Buffy realized she had just been told by Lakhesis to mind her own business.
“Our intention was to restore a balance,” Lakhesis explained to the group. “By separating the form of the vampire, we forced an unnatural polarization of the personalities. Good and evil. Souled and soulless. Conditions were made and assurances given. During the difficult time ahead, we Moirae arranged for the vampire to return to Sunnydale and take up the Good Fight at the side of the Chosen One.”
“Something went wrong,” Cordelia complained explaining to the Moirae that Angel had turned into Psycho Vamp while Angelus seemed to be able to control his demonic urges for the most part.
Lakhesis found the confusion amusing. “Nothing went wrong. All is as we intended. The vampire exists in two forms with layered connections between them, foremost the soul.”
“Angelus has a soul?” Cordelia gaped at the implication.
“He is influenced by it now as I’m certain you have seen, daughter.”
Cordelia glanced up at Angelus with a new understanding. “He loves me.”
“The separation created a temporary balance, but this did not allow the fruition of our plans. For true balance to be achieved it requires each personality to experience that which is unique to the other.” Lakhesis allowed herself a moment to enjoy the starry look in the hazel eyes of the vampire’s mate for it would not long remain.
Lakhesis provided the details with patience. “The demon must experience emotions and love to an extent only those with a soul may possess. The soul must experience the harsh realities of the vampire’s true nature unfiltered by the influence of the other personality and keep those urges in check.”
“Do you see the genius of it all?” Klotho spun around in a circle despite her girth letting out a merry laugh. “Soul and demon. Order and Chaos. Opposites existing together as a tool for Good or Evil. A champion fashioned for the Powers that Be from the purity that was the human Liam and the demon Angelus with the essence of unrealized potential in Angel.”
With a growing sense of dread, Giles rose out of his chair to face Lakhesis. “What is your intent?”
“Our intent should be clear to you, Watcher, just as it should for all of you,” Lakhesis told them. “Destiny’s path remains unchanged as we have described it. Come the dawn the balance shall be restored and only the vampire who is our champion shall remain.”