Mythos & Monsters
A Reader’s Guide to the Mythos and Monsters of ‘Double or Nothing’
A megafic deserves an origin story. More details on Scorch’s challenge. Discussion on how a simple transcription error can lead to a whole new plot. Revelations about the plot twists. Includes a Who’s Who of mythic characters, supernatural creatures, and monsters found in the story.
Read the story first!
Come back when you’re finished to read all about the hows and who’s and whys.
All in a Name: The Story Behind the Title
Let’s call this “Royal Screw Up #1“.
Did you know that there is an Angel episode named ‘Double or Nothing‘?
This fic and that episode have absolutely nothing to do with one another. I had no idea that there was an episode by the same name.
Had I known, I probably would have called this fic by another title. But what? As it turned out, ‘Double or Nothing’ was a very apropos name. Although Cordelia starts out seeing double everyday while living under the same roof as Angelus and Angel, the Fates have a different plan in store. They have created a new champion who replaces both vampires leaving her with nothing. . . or everything.
Most of the fic writing challenges I accept consist of a few words and a request for a specific character or pairing C/A or C/Aus. Even those few words can make for a great story, but the writer usually has a lot of leeway for interpretation.
This is probably the most detailed challenge I’ve ever accepted. Scorch wanted some C/Aus, but came up with an interesting way of getting it. This challenge came with a set of existing criteria that I figured I could meet over the course of a short serial.
My little epic is anything but short. It’s not quite as long as ‘War & Peace’ but it’s not that far off, either.
I was excited about writing it and I jumped in with both feet. It wasn’t until I had written several chapters that I realized I didn’t really have an endgame figured out. Readers were starting to wonder if I was planning a threesome. Frankly, I hadn’t ruled that out at that stage, but it wasn’t part of Scorch’s original challenge, so I did not feel obligated to include one if it didn’t feel right for the story.
Just how was I going to end this fic? I went back to the beginning to try to figure that out. All I knew was that the Furies were responsible for separating Angel & Angelus. They were the only spell-casting mythical beings I knew about at the time that had a past with Angel. There was just one problem.
(Welcome to royal screw up #2.)
When re-reading the chapter describing the beings Angel had gone to for help, it didn’t say he went to the Furies at all. Instead, I had written that the Fates were responsible.
What was I supposed to do—fess up to everyone? “Please pause your fic reading for this formal announcement. The three mythic women with supernatural powers you thought were responsible for everything actually had nothing to do with it. Instead it was this other trio of mythic women with supernatural powers.”
So how does a fic writer get herself out of a royal screw up? She keeps writing and prays that her muse will come to the rescue.
I’m still not sure how that happened. Maybe it was fate.
1) Buffy & Angel find a way around the curse by separating him from Angelus.
This was an easy one. I planned to be vague. Yes, vagueness sounded like a good way of explaining it without actually explaining it. Just let the Furies help Angel out. It was clear based on what I had seen at Lorne’s club that Angel had a past with these chippies, so they’d probably be good candidates to help him out.
Reference: Royal Screw Up #2. Fates vs. Furies.
2) Angelus must agree to ‘fight the good fight’ and is monitored by the PTB.
There was no way Angelus would fight alongside the Scoobies without some serious consequences coming into play. Considering some of the challenge criteria, I figured that Angelus would be unable to have complete control over his instincts. Otherwise he would go on a killing spree, or do the minimum he could possibly do to meet the PTB’s demands.
Curtailing Angelus’ ability to kill was a must. This sounded a lot like ‘chipped’ Spike to me minus the actual chip. Since Spike wasn’t going to be around for comparison or reminders, I figured it might work as a plot device.
3) Scooby Gang freaks out with Angelus running around.
4) Angelus doesn’t care about the ‘good fight’, but ends up saving Cordy one night. She’s scared witless of the vamp.
Scorch wanted C/Aus to develop, but with Cordelia initially being scared of him. I added a little something to their history. The night he tackled her to the ground in the cemetery, he had enough time to tell her the details of his plans for her. Because of that, Cordelia remains on edge when he’s around even though she knows he can’t harm her.
5) Angelus goes after Cordy in a big way…cards & flowers no less…in addition to doing anything he can to impress her.
This didn’t seem like a very Angelus-y thing to do. Puppies and bleeding hearts, I could believe. Flowers and cards—not so much. Unless you think about the fact that Angelus can be a very patient creature. I can see him stalking women in a way that makes them want him despite their fear.
Although, at the time, the flowers, cards and candy courting style seemed somewhat out of character for Angelus, it played into another idea that came to me later on in the fic.
What if Angelus and Angel’s personalities were affected by the split?
6) Hot, steamy C/Aus results.
Hopefully hot and steamy enough! Their relationship became far more serious than Cordelia imagined.
7) B/A starts to deteriorate despite sex no longer being an issue d/t mistrust and the slayer/vampire dynamic.
This is probably the criteria that trapped me into writing a longer fic. The A/Aus separation, C/Aus romance and steamy smut were the easy part. Deterioration is a slow process, which meant that I would have to include B/A in the first part of the fic in order to set up the whole story. From a historical perspective, I liked B/A when it was fresh and new, but I get a strange sense of satisfaction from screwing with their relationship. (Literally, in this case.)
Although Scorch was basically asking for C/Aus, she never made C/A part of the fic criteria. It only made sense that part of the distrust that developed between Buffy and Angel would have something to do with Cordelia. And since I adore C/A, I couldn’t resist. So I decided that after his return from hell, Cordelia made an effort to make peace with Angel, and that they had developed a little bit of a friendship. I wanted Angel to be attracted to her at that stage even if he never did anything about it—because of Buffy.
8) The following scenes have to be included:
a.) Buffy and Cordelia meeting in the mansion kitchen. Buffy is fully dressed, but Cordy is only in Angelus’ robe.
Check. This happened after their first night together. Of course, it was Angel’s robe to begin with, and Buffy assumes that Cordelia had sex with Angel.
b.) Angel runs into the bedroom after hearing Cordelia screaming.
Check. This criteria actually led to the whole Thesulac plot in the last 1/3 of the fic. At first it was just a sneaky way of getting Cordelia and Angel into the same bed even if there was going to be no actual smut. Don’t think I wasn’t tempted.
c.) Angel & Angelus walking in the library together, Buffy running up to Angelus thinking he’s Angel. He pushes her away in disgust. Cordy can tell them apart, but Buffy can’t.
This bit took place early in the fic when Angel and Angelus reveal their split to the Scoobies. Buffy’s inability to figure out which vamp was which became a theme of the fic. Though her mistakes hurt both Buffy and Angel, the fact that she had difficulty distinguishing him from Angelus may not have been entirely her fault. With the way the story developed, and the two vampires basically going through a psychological change, it may be that Buffy’s supernatural senses were picking up on it in some subconscious way.
d.) Willow gets slapped in the face with a wet fish.
Check. This wasn’t actually part of the original challenge. During a conversation one day, Scorch expressed her disdain for Willow and wished that she could slap her in the face with a wet fish. Though it might not have happened just like Scorch envisioned, DoN’s Willow does have a slimy encounter with a fish. Angelus gives Willow some aquarium fish to make up for the loss of the ones he killed. One slippery fishy escapes her net and hits her face on its way back into the tank.
9) The rest is up to you.
Hooboy! A free license to do whatever I wanted. (*insert evil laugh here*)
Most of ‘the rest’ came from me covering up ‘Royal Screw Up #2’ by involving the Fates in the actual story development and resolution. I am all for fic plotting and planning, but never let it be said that a good brainstorm can’t be incorporated into your story. Just don’t expect it to be a ‘short’ fic by the time that you’re done.
The Powers That Be
In DoN, the PTB are a very elusive set of beings who are never actually identified within the storyline. Although we hear more about them during the seasons of Angel, this fic takes place during BtVS. While it becomes evident that the PTB have some influence over human existence, free will remains an important factor.
Greek Mythology: The Moirae
Roman Mythology: The Parcae
Norse Mythology: The Norns
Shakespeare: The 3 Witches from ‘Macbeth’
The DoN version of the Fates comes from Greek mythology. One of my middle school elective classes was on Greco-Roman Mythology. I also took Latin because I thought it might be useful if I pursued Medical or Nursing School as a future career. I think I was more interested in the history and mythology than learning a dead language. My limited understanding of Norse mythology comes from a brief stint at reading Thor comic books and thinking that Thor was kind of hot. With Chris Hemsworth in that role, I think I was right.
There are 3 Fates, often depicted in the form of hags, or in various stages of youth, maturity, and decrepitude personifying the inescapable destiny of man.
In Greek myth they were frequently identified as the daughters of Zeus, but in DoN, the Moirae are instead powerful non-corporeal beings associated with the Powers that Be. They are neither truly Good nor Evil, but their actions influence both. (See Universal Theory.)
In order to cure Angel and Angelus of the psychological effects of being separated the gang attempts to summon the Fates using a powerful talisman. They are instead transported to the hall of the Fates. During the introductions, the Fates reveal hints of what is to come for each of them.
We learn from the Fates that they have been involved with Angel and Angelus’ lives from the moment of Liam’s conception. It is their task to fashion a champion for the Powers that Be. At first it is unclear exactly how they are doing this, or who that champion will be. Their explanations come with glimpses of the past and through the revelation of a ‘metaphorical pregnancy’ on the part of Klotho.
Since the Fates are actually non-corporeal beings her gravid appearance only looks like a typical human pregnancy. It simply represents the fact that the Fates are in the process of fashioning a new life, a future champion, from the essence and experience of Liam, Angelus and Angel.
Though the explanation doesn’t clear up all of their questions, the gang believes that in order to produce their champion the Fates intend for either Angel or Angelus to die.
The fic could easily have ended right there, but I still had a couple of loose ends to tie up, mainly the source of Cordelia’s nightmares. (See Thesulac Demon.) By now I was thoroughly attached to both Angelus and Angel, even if the latter was turning into a leash-free version of his soulless self. Wah! I didn’t want one of them to die. So I came up with an angsty solution.
As far as Cordelia was concerned she lost both Angelus and Angel. The morning after the encounter with the Fates, she is faced with the new champion who is neither the Angelus nor Angel we know. He possesses their memories and, as we discover, shares their feelings for Cordelia, but he is not technically either one of them.
Cordelia also has a destiny to affect change upon the PTB’s champion. He can be a force for Good or Evil depending upon her influence.
♦ The Youngest Fate
♦ Spinner of the Thread of Life
♦ Her symbol is the spinning wheel
In Double or Nothing, Klotho is responsible for gathering the ‘essense’ of the three phases of their champion: Liam, Angelus, and Angel. The gang views this as some sort of sexual encounter, but it is just a visual means of explaining that she is taking a part of him into herself in order to produce the champion.
During her ‘tour’ of the past Klotho shows them the Hyperion Hotel of 1952, which seemed unnecessary, but it is her way of hinting to them what is still to come. (See Thesulac Demon.)
It is also Klotho who arranges for a new beginning for Cordelia and their champion so that the dark future Lachesis predicts may be avoided.
♦ The Mature Fate
♦ Measures the Length of the Life’s Thread
♦ Weaves the Tapestry of Life.
♦ Her symbol is the tapestry
When in the Hall of the Fates it is Lachesis who does most of the talking. She gives each of them a hint about their future. Though her sister Klotho is the spark of ideas and creation, it is Lachesis who directs the course of destiny.
♦ The Decrepit One
♦ The Final Fate
♦ She who Snips the Thread of Life
♦ Her symbol is a pair of scissors
Atropos represents the end of life, the ultimate destiny, the inescapable truth that all life must end. You do not want her attention to turn to you.
Before they attempt the summoning spell, Giles presents some of his research to the gang to help them understand where the Fates fit in to the scheme of things. He tells them that the Fates are at the center of everything, neither Good nor Evil, but their power reaches everywhere.
Some basic concepts:
Good is the opposite of Evil
Order is the opposite of Chaos
Both Order and Chaos can exist in that which is Good
Both Order and Chaos can exist in that which is Evil
Intersecting all that may be Good or Evil or Order or Chaos are the Fates by being all things or none.
The 3 ‘chippies’ from the Whedonverse seem to be very different from those in Greek mythology. Another name for them is the Erinyes. They were the daughters of Gaea and Uranus, mother & father of the gods who represented the Earth and Sky. The Furies were goddesses of vengeance and sometimes called the Daughters of the Night.
Tisiphone: avenger of murder
Megaera: the jealous
Alecto: constant anger
The Whedonverse refers to a trio mystical women called the Transuding Furies, but these characters are not introduced until AtS Season 3 in ‘That Old Gang of Mine’ when Angel sends Cordelia to their address to have them remove the sanctorum spell on Caritas that prevents demon-initiated violence.
Angel hints that the Furies have a reason to remember him. When Cordy meets with them they confirm that they definitely know him. They agree to the plan if Angel will make good on the debt as only he is ‘equipped’ to do. Anytime his name is brought up, they coo together, “Mmmm, Angel.”
The Furies are only seen floating. They finish each other’s sentences by speaking in turn.
In DoN, we still don’t discover just when or how Angel came to know the Furies. It was sometime before his arrival in Sunnydale. He knows that they potentially have the power to separate him from Angelus. However, he remembers that he was given a charm that will summon Klotho, and decides to contact the Fates instead. (See RSU#2)
The Thesulac Demon
In the Whedonverse we don’t come across a thesulac demon until the episode ‘Are You Now or Have You Ever Been’ when we learn about Angel’s past history with the Hyperion Hotel.
So, what does a demon from 1952 and AtS have to do with our BtVS-era characters? Quite a lot, actually.
The thesulac is a non-corporeal paranoia demon that whispers to its victims and feeds on their innate fears and insecurities. While non-corporeal, the thesulac is invisible and possesses telepathic abilities. The fear they inspire is a source of food for the creature, but also causes the victims to commit acts of violence such as suicide, murder and lynching. Under certain circumstances the demon will be forced into a corporeal state, but it remains immune to most forms of physical harm except a massive electrical charge.
One of fic criterion for DoN was to have Angel rush to Cordelia bedside when she calls out his name after a nightmare. The reason for the nightmare came to me long after she actually experienced that first one, which might not have been related at all.
I wanted Cordelia to stay loyal to the memory of Angelus (and Angel) without easily succumbing to the New Guy. Somewhere in the middle of a brainstorming session I remembered that Klotho had made a point of showing Angel the Hyperion Hotel during her little tour of their encounter in 1952. And it hit me that I might be able to use that to my advantage.
Being so close to the hotel put them within the reach of the thesulac who would still sense them even if they were not otherwise corporeal. There would also be a lot of tension coming from the group, which would have drawn its attention, especially Cordelia, and it would also recognize Angel.
In the DoN timeline, which occurs during BtVS3, the demon is still at the Hyperion. Through a connection it established with Cordelia during her 1952 tour it was able to affect her telepathically, feeding off her insecurities about the new Angel and her relationship with him.
She continues to have nightmares at the same time of night, a clue that will later be important. Cordelia is driven to act upon her nightmares by going to Los Angeles. Clues within the dreams lead her to the Hyperion Hotel: the sign for Melman Realty & Development and the repetition of the numbers 217. The Thesulac plans to use her as a lure to reel in Angel, whom he regards as a worthy meal, never counting on the fact that this time Angel is not alone.
Questions and Comments?
If there is some other aspect of Double or Nothing that you want to explore, just leave me your comments or questions.