By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 15 - The Streets of London
"Pretty large for an inn," Buffy remarked, trying to muster some interest in tonight's mission impossible.
"It used to be an orphanage and a poorhouse, with the Master's house in the middle," Willoughby explained. "Nowadays the poorhouse serves as a warehouse, and the orphanage is used as a stable and a...a..." The Watcher cleared his throat.
"A whorehouse?" Buffy asked, catching on quickly. "Gee, you're really showing me the sights." Willoughby opened his mouth as if to correct her choice of words, but decided against it.
The carriage drove to the end of the street, turned round the corner into a narrow lane and stopped. Willoughby stood up and lifted the padded surface he had been sitting on. Underneath was a hollow space. He took out two crossbows and passed one of them to the Slayer. Next he passed her a quiver of arrows. Buffy proceeded to load the crossbow. Meanwhile, Willoughby emptied the compartment. There were more weapons. Swords, stakes, small vials filled with clear liquid, unlit torches, crosses and two lanterns.
"Wow," Buffy said. "Quite an arsenal. Looks like we're going to start a crusade." She patted her seat. "What's in here?"
Willoughby lit one of the lamps and opened his black leather bag. He removed a piece of paper, unfolded it and spread it out on the seat.
"The Council has known of this tavern for many years. It has often sheltered vampires and demons. The innkeeper himself is rumored to be less than human. Until now, it seemed opportune to keep the place under observation, rather than close it down and drive the evil minions that frequent it even deeper into hiding," Willoughby explained.
He studied his *new* Slayer intently.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"Strong, fast and ready for a good slay," Buffy replied with a false cheer.
"I want you to wear this," the Watcher said, fishing an object out of his pocket. It was a golden chain with a little golden cross on it.
"Where's yours?" Buffy asked.
* * * *
"Can I have one now?" Drusilla asked peering hungrily into the basket.
"We're almost there," Angelus said, distracted. His hand was caressing Darla's ankle and calf. She was sitting opposite him, her foot teasing his lap. "Won't be long now, Drusilla, and we'll all feast on them."
Drusilla pouted, annoyed at the lack of attention she was receiving.
One of the infants woke. A little boy. His face contorted, but he had already learned in his short miserable life that loud crying never brought help, so he just mewled quietly. Drusilla brushed the tiny little head with her fingertips, sampling his warmth. The chill of her touch startled the child. He looked at her with amazed blue eyes.
"A pretty little thing. I like blue eyes. There are summer skies in them, and tunes and beautiful words," Drusilla said in her usual sing-song, studying the child intently. "The pixies told me that I'd get a shiny, blue-eyed prince to play with, soon."
"Is that so?" Darla said languidly, not really listening to the younger vampire's ramblings. Instead, she concentrated on the effect her foot was having on her magnificent creation. Angelus. HER Angelus.
"The pixies never lie, not to me." Drusilla smiled and lifted the baby out of its basket to cradle it in her arms. She rocked it gently. "But I'm growing tired of waiting for my prince." She nodded at the infant in her arms. "Can I turn him?"
"No!" Angelus and Darla said sharply.
"You can't turn babies," Angelus explained for about the hundredth time, *or dogs, cats or horses.*
"How do you know, Papa, if you haven't tried it?" Drusilla asked. And then, as if she were reading his mind, she added, "We could make so many nice things. Like hellish stallions with glowing eyes and devilish speed that will rend and tear at living flesh. I'd like that."
The two older vampires exchanged glances. "She's all yours," Darla said with a malignant smile. She withdrew her wayward foot, much to Angelus's frustration. She slid it back into her shoe.
Angelus frowned. He glared at his troublesome offspring. "Put it down, Dru," he said forcefully, "or you won't eat at all tonight." His eyes flashed yellow. It wasn't an idle threat.
Drusilla giggled happily at his tone, and complied. She folded her hands in her lap and lowered her eyes, trying to look demure and seductive at the same time. But Angelus was already bored with his broken toy. He turned his attention back to the cold beauty who had sired him.
Darla raised one mocking eyebrow, and wordlessly held up her foot, waiting for Angelus to tie the laces. And Angelus, the killer of families, one of the most feared vampires of his time, complied.
* * * *
William knew he should have called a cab to take him home after the party at Hartford's, but he had felt like stretching his legs and he had shied away from the expense. He was humming "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers", enjoying the cheerfulness of the vulgar little American tune, as he was walking along well lit streets. Many balls lasted till three o'clock in the morning. Until then, the city didn't really go to sleep. William could hear the sound of carriages going this way and that.
As usual, he was thinking about Cecily.
*A mesmerizing goddess,
She makes my heart expand...*
*Hm, what rhymes with expand? Land, hand, demand, understand...*
*What a rather peculiar girl,* he thought for at least the twentieth time tonight, as the image of the strange redhead came unbidden into his mind. She had looked so pale, her skin almost translucent. And her red hair... Like she had just stepped out of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. Beautiful but insubstantial, like a mythological creature. Not quite real. *Elusive?*
The poet in him was baffled by the difficulty to find the proper words to describe the young woman. Not to mention her unusual behavior during their brief encounter. *Odd? Abstruse? No.* Within a short time she had broken with more conventions than he could name but it hadn't scandalized him as it should have. *Enigmatic? Fugacious?*
How could it be that she had appeared so fragile and yet strong at the same time? If he were a painter he'd paint her as Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, before Achilles' spear takes her life. Well perhaps he could attempt a pencil drawing sometime?
The poem he was composing about Cecily was momentarily forgotten as he pondered the way the girl had smiled at him. No one had ever smiled at him like that. Without condescension.
*She's a contradiction, yes, that's it!*
Young and old, innocent and world-weary.
He didn't even know `her' name. But `she' had been with the Willoughby family. Mr. Willoughby and Mr. Hartford seemed to be on good terms. Both were interested in old manuscripts and books. William had, more than once, found the man in his employer's library, studying heavy leather bound tomes from the locked up section of the collection.
He had wondered if he should find out who `she' was, but since he was steadfastly in love with Cecily it would have been unfitting.
*Cecily. Oh Cecily.* He pushed the image of the redhead aside. As it was unlikely he'd ever see her again, there was no reason to give her a second thought. Instead, he summoned up the memory of Cecily, how impeccably she had carried herself. She had looked radiant, graceful, she was everything a man could aspire to.
*A mesmerizing goddess,
She makes my heart expand...
Before my love expires
The world comes to an end*
Deep in thought he arrived at home. Inside he was greeted happily by an old dog, who was lying on a rug in the hallway. Absentmindedly, William patted his head, while shrugging out of his coat.
Nevertheless, even though his heart belonged to Cecily, as he walked up the stairs to his bedroom, his thoughts inexplicably and quite unintentionally gravitated back to the girl he was beginning to think of as Penthesilea. *I wonder what she's doing...* But then he shook his head. She was probably already home, tucked in her... um... fast asleep.
* * * *
The first vampire was a piece of cake. He never knew what hit him. Buffy's arrow found its mark unerringly. Willoughby just nodded, as if he had expected nothing less.
"Now this is what I call a stake out," Buffy punned as they watched the inn. They had taken up position in a building on the opposite side of the road, an old abandoned and rat infested brewery. *Eew!*
Willoughby did not react. He studied the alley intensely. He was watching the right hand side, Buffy was concentrating on the left hand side, where their carriage was waiting for them.
"What about the coachman?"
"Don't worry about him," Willoughby answered. "There, someone's coming."
Buffy followed his glance. Two well-dressed men were walking at a brisk pace towards them. She shook her head. "Human."
"Are you sure?"
They watched as the two gentlemen hurried past them.
A carriage drove past. Buffy tensed, then she hurriedly passed the crossbow to her surprised Watcher and ran out in the street after the moving conveyance. Silently cursing her billowing skirt she managed to stay just a few steps behind it. When it slowed to go round a corner she jumped. Dangling from the vehicle's roof she tried to find support for her feet on the fenders. Just as she felt herself slipping, the carriage slowed and came to a stop.
She listened as two passengers climbed out, a man and a woman. The man paid the coachman and exchanged a few words with him. He had a foreign accent Buffy was unable to place. The Slayer quietly stepped down, pulled a stake from her purse and hid the weapon behind her back. The coach drove off leaving them standing in the middle of the dark lane.
Buffy found herself facing a tall, Caucasian looking gentleman and his beautiful blonde lady. Both were dressed expensively, wearing hats and gloves. The man was leaning on a cane. If Buffy's presence surprised them, they hid it well.
"Should I curtsey before I stake you?" Buffy asked, brandishing her stake. Then things happened very fast. The two handsome faces were replaced by bestial features as the vampires revealed their true selves. Buffy's attempt to plunge her stake into the male creature's heart was blocked at incredible speed. This was no fledgling. This was an old, experienced vampire. And he brought up his cane fast and efficiently, almost knocking her out with a vicious blow to her head. Buffy managed to evade the attack at least partly. It missed her head but grazed her shoulder painfully.
"You could poke an eye out with that thing," she said to the vamp, who was preparing for another swing in her direction.
The female vampire stood back, watching the fight gleefully.
Buffy attempted a kick at the man's kneecap but was hindered by the skirt. She exchanged a few blows with him, but he was fast and able to withstand considerable damage. He was also careful. He never took his eyes of the stake she was wielding. And his cane gave him superior range.
Buffy was beginning to wonder how she should take him out. Another swing of that cane, directed at her head. She ducked. And delivered a flurry of blows trying to throw him off balance. As he was staggering backward, she followed quickly, grabbed him by the lapels of his coat and hurled him against the nearest building, hoping to get a good opening for a well aimed stake.
That was the moment the female vampire decided to jump into the foray.
"Oh? You wanna play tag team?" Buffy quipped. "That's not fair. I don't have a partner!"
With a feral growl the creature swung her purse at Buffy. It was a fluffy little pouch made of satin and lace, but when it connected with Buffy's ribs the impact was not only painful but it also knocked the wind out of her.
"Ow, what have you got in there? Bricks?" Buffy groaned. She narrowly evaded another swing of the pouch, and feinted a stab attack before making a grab for the purse. She managed to get hold of it and gave it a forceful yank. The not-so-lady-like vampire was not about to let go, but pulled in the other direction. When the strings snapped and the female vampire staggered back Buffy was ready for it. Stake! Hold breath! And the blond vampire exploded into a shower of dust.
"So much for fair play."
"No!" the male vampire shouted and this time he forgot to be careful. Wildly swinging his cane, he drove Buffy backwards, forcing her to duck and parry. Again the skirt made her stumble. "Oops, how clumsy of me!" Buffy exclaimed. As he jumped at the opportunity to overpower her, the stake found its mark. "Or maybe not." There was a look of surprise on the vampire's face as he disintegrated.
"I guess he expected more of a faint than a feint. That'll teach him." She shrugged. "Or maybe not." She shook some dust out of her lacey sleeve.
Curious, she checked the contents of the pouch she was still holding. She was pretty sure that its blow had cracked one of her ribs. "Horseshoes. No wonder I felt like I was kicked by a horse." She picked up her own handbag and put her stake and the two horseshoes inside.
*Right. Three down, only ten to go. Yay me!*
She briskly walked back to the brewery, just in time to see a carriage pulling into the yard of the former orphanage.
"It would seem that tonight's hosts have finally arrived," Willoughby said.
* * * *
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Penthesilea was the Amazon Queen in the Iliad, fighting for the Trojans. A strong and fearless warrior. She was vanquished by the Greek warrior Achilles, who fell in love with her after killing her.
Continued in Part 16 - Live and Learn