All About Spike - Plain Version

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Chapter: 1  2  3  4


London Hellmouth
By Sylvia Volk

Part Four

He slept in her arms, and around them, others slept too. The homeless men lay in the park, toes sticking out beneath the split uppers of their boots, and the park keepers (as was their amiable custom) let them sleep. Crawlers drowsed throughout the parish of St. Giles. There were more of them than in former days, and the demons who also now populated St. Giles seemed curiously indifferent to their presence. So they dreamed on, unmolested, and what was more, uneaten. Some smaller demons were moved to drop half-pence in their teacups, even. Demons could recognize their own.

Throughout London, human beings fell into slumber and did not wake. Eventually some of these sat bolt upright, still fast asleep. Cold fire burned in their mouths and eyesockets. Then they rose, and descended toward the Hellmouth. They were Sleepers now.

At Mount Mills, off Goswell Road, was a waste field where nothing ever grew. Nothing had grown there since the time of the Great Plague, and it was sacred now to the First. Harbringers in robes haunted it; those who met them on moonless nights mistook them for Franciscans--till the knives came out. Those Harbringers now turned their eyeless faces toward Seven Dials. The First Evil looked through their senses, but its time was not yet, and it withdrew all its servants into hiding.

By evening, Sleepers walked the backstreets of St. Giles. Dozens of Sleepers. With shoes walked right off their blistered and bleeding feet, some of them. But when they crawled through area windows and down into the vampire-infested cellars, the vampires drew back and would not feed. Only afterward did they approach, grovel, and lick the stains where the Sleepers had trodden.

In the Hellmouth, the dragon slept too. Its bed was at the heart of a maze. Its every exhalation was Sleep. From it, nightmares seeped upward throughout London.

Wiggy and Lupine had withdrawn to the safety of Southwark, not yet affected. In their room at the Old George, they bided their time. Lupine counted over his spells. Wiggy honed a sword, and remembered her lessons.

Spike woke, snuggled closer to Drusilla, and smiled.

Bright fog still hung over them, a shroud. It was fitting. He played with Drusilla's hair, breathed her perfume--heliotrope, her carnivorous diet, mothballs--and once he gathered one of her hands in his, and kissed it lingeringly. They had slept together like this, day after day, for twenty-five years now. When she whimpered, he curled himself all the more snugly round her. She twitched, made a little sharp mewling cry, and he gentled her. But when she spoke in her sleep, the name that came out was, "Angelus."

His shadow was always over them. Spike disentangled himself, sat up, sniffed hard and wiped at his nose and mouth with the back of his right hand. Because she still slept and did not watch, he then tried to shake some life back into his left arm. He shook it. He slapped at it. He lifted it, and let it flop.

Then he gave up and sat bent over, cradling his left arm in his right.

"Is the pretty lady ill?"

Spike turned slowly. It was a little girl, a toddler perhaps six years old, but brilliant as sunshine itself with yellow ringlets round her sweet face, eyes utterly enormous. Crystal-clear English grey eyes. Her pinafore was bundled shapelessly round her, no doubt because beneath it, a sheet of cotton-wool would be sewn onto her little body; that was how the poor folk of London kept their children warm, sewing them up in cotton-wool. But the pinafore itself had been lovingly smocked, in dozens of elaborate pleats studded with tiny pearl buttons; and its collar was real lace. She regarded Drusilla with interest.

She was just what Drusilla might like for breakfast.

He smiled at her. "She's sleeping, that's all. Are you lost, then?"

"Here's a flower." It hung from her chubby fist, the stem bent. A violet. "Do you want it? You look sad."

"Just because I'm hungry, sweet." To flirt with her was instinctive in him. He accepted the flower, cupped it and made play at inhaling its weak fragrance. "Thank--"

"Emma!" A woman appeared, out of the fog. She was in every way the little girl grown up, such a beauty as would have had Angelus drooling at once. Delicate as a bird. Well-bred, though her dress was faded, and with the stamp of purity and innocence in every line. Young still, too; she must have married very young. Yes, Angelus would have been after her like a shot. "Emma, come away from the gentleman. Sir, excuse my daughter, she always has to have her nose in everything-- Emma, come here right now."

"Will you buy me a strawberry ice?"

A man was behind the woman now. "Emma, mind your mother." The toddler ran to him. He shooed her into her mother's arms, and straightened, gazing suspiciously at Spike. He was built like a stevedore.

Spike considered them. His mouth watered. The child. The mother. And the brawny father. Small Emma dimpled at him, and held out her arms. "Sorry, darling," he said to her, was up on his feet, and in a flash he was past her and her mother, and had the father down--wrestling one-armed, with his fangs in the man's throat.


#


"Where are we going, Mr. Lupine?"

"Didn't I bid you call me by my Christian name, my child?"

Wiggy blushed, and repeated her question. "Arturus. Dearest Arturus, do you know where we're going?"

Dearest Arturus cast her a nettlesome glance. He said, "For the fifth time, I'm working on it."

Dearest Arturus! How well she loved him! He was everything to her--being, as he was, not only in loco parentis, but also her betrothed, her lord and master, her sole support and (of course) devoted Watcher. It was just as in the books--oh, Mansfield Park, for instance, and David Copperfield--a great true love, between a man and a woman whose souls entwined. And she would guard him with her life, she reflected pleasantly. A few fleeting fantasies passed through her mind. Staking demons who threatened Mr. Lupine; exorcizing vampires who dared attempt to bite him; standing, short-sword in fist, between Mr. Lupine and the Vicissitudes of Life. She had brought the weapon with her, concealed in an umbrella. Not for nothing had her mother named her Wiglaf, after a famous hero of ancient ballad. "He might not have killed dragons, Wiglaf," Wiggy's mother had told her, rocking Wiggy on her knee, "but this was his virtue, and mark it well: Wiglaf stood true when no other would, and--" with a faint smile, "--he survived past the end of the story, and that's something, isn't it?"

The thought of dragons brought the memory back, clear and calming, a balm to Wiggy's soul. She pictured herself at Mr. Lupine's side, standing true when no other would; outliving him eventually (for after all, he was twenty years her senior) to linger by his grave, laying flowers on it, a mystery to handsome young men who, passing by, would inquire whether she was still single, and shed a tear at her tragic story . . . "Alone and palely loitering," she muttered under her breath. The rest of the poem didn't apply, but it cheered Wiggy nonetheless. More loudly, meanwhile, she said, "Arturus? Do you know where we're going yet?"

They had gotten a cab in Southwark, and it had deposited them at New Oxford Street. From that point onward, Mr. Lupine had given every evidence of not knowing east from west or up from down. Plunging into the teeming crowds of the West End, they had tramped ceaselessly up one street and down another; peering at the blank faces of buildings, to no avail; jostled by rude men, Wiggy's handkerchief stolen, liberties taken. Dens of iniquity surrounded them. Wiggy was convinced of it. Why, there was a gin-palace to every five houses hereabouts--she had counted them herself.

At last they trudged to a dismal halt in Seven Dials itself, that benighted circus of diabolism. Wiggy had a firm grip on the tail of Mr. Lupine's coat. "Arturus? Are we there yet?"

And Mr. Lupine snatched the hat off his head, flung it down on the filthy cobblestones, and stamped on it. "For the last time, girl, hold your tongue! I told you--"

"--you're working on it," Wiggy joined in the chorus.

He cast her a jaundiced glance.

"Directly beneath our feet," he announced, "lies the very mouth of Hell." (Wiggy started slightly and climbed atop a nearby abandoned box.) "This is our destination. Child, if I could, I would say the word and we would sink toward the center of the Earth. But Hell must be climbed down into; it is not a pit, but a labyrinth leading to the Earth's very core; and till we discover the entrance of the maze, we must perforce stand still and--"

"Oh! It's like Mr. Verne?"

"I beg your pardon," said Lupine, distracted.

"The novels of Mr. Jules Verne? The French writer. 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'?"

"Wiggy." He regarded her. "Get down off that box. Hold your tongue for a few moments. And let me think."

She held her tongue for two minutes altogether by the clock. Then: "But, dearest Arturus? Can't you ask someone for directions?"

"For example, whom?" demanded Lupine, at the end of his rope.

Wiggy pointed with her umbrella. "For example . . . them?"

It was a pair of Sleepers shuffling past. One was a man, still in his long nightshirt, and with a striped and tassled cap upon his head. The other was a blank-faced young lady, a factory worker by her garb. Both were sleepwalking, open-eyed but blind to the world. Both looked utterly exhausted--drained by a sleep that gave no rest, eaten alive by dreams. "Follow them!" Lupine said.

It was as simple as that.


#


Drusilla led the way into the Hellmouth.

Spike slunk behind her, still wiping blood from his chin. The mother and child had run away screaming, but he had drunk his fill of the father, before escaping with a giggling Dru in tow. No doubt the Green Park keepers were, even now, summoning Scotland Yard. And Scotland Yard's finest would take note of another mystery, scratch their heads and put it all down to providence. Spike ran his tongue round his teeth, patted his stomach, and grinned to himself.

They went down through the cellar of a slum lodging-house, through a trap-door and a passageway black as coal. At the end of the passage was a single tiny room, and in one corner of this room, the floorboards had been pried up. What was revealed was a lightless hole, stinking and close. That was the way down: a dead drop to nothing. Spike stood over it, sniffing vigilantly. Dru hissed. She dropped to her hands and knees, her whole body writhing--weaving over the hole, like a snake testing the air for danger. Every human affectation had been stripped from her. "Here's home," she whispered finally.

They went down.

They saw in the dark. It was the Hellmouth itself they descended into, following Drusilla's nose through a labyrinth of passageways impassable as the Minoan Maze. It was one of the old legends of London: that a maze lay under the city. Such legends were told of many cities in the old world. Sometimes they were true. A Hellmouth was a maze in its purest form. Fog was drifting through the tunnels, white wisps like long inquisitive fingers. Sleeping humans lay strewn face-down on the ground. Spike and Dru stepped over them. They were Sleepers who had not made it all the way.

"Wonder what they're wanted for," Spike commented. "And do you know what it'll be like?"

"A mirage of paradise," Dru said, faraway and rapt, "a garden of illusions. Lawned with gold, jewel-flowered, with poison trees. A hundred knights in armor sleeping, a hundred horses too, dreaming of King Arthur. Oh! I can see it so clearly, and it's beautiful!"

They went down to a barren cavern, where the way ahead widened drastically. Its roof was a slanting shelf of hard clay, high overhead; there were shadows deep as fissures in the ground. Just in sight, far ahead, was a true fissure, a crevasse like a mouth. That was all: nothing more. Except the bodies.

They had been Sleepers. Some of them were still alive, Spike noticed--with the instincts of a predator, he spotted them amidst the carpet of bones, ripped clothing and scalps, and the dismembered pieces of meat. Most of them, though, were dead. Yes, and some predator bigger and hungrier than any vampire had been at them. Eating.

So that was what the Sleepers were wanted for. Spike let out a whistle. "It's a bloody charnel house!"

"This is the dragon's lair, and see, there's treasure heaped on every side," said Dru happily. "Redder than rubies, and twice as tasty. It will come out of its crevasse and eat me too. And then . . . ooo, look, Spike! Sleeping Beauty!"

"Christ," said Spike, nostrils flaring. "Blood?"

A runnel of red, as thick as ink, ran along a little natural trough in the floor. He stooped and sniffed, licking his lips. Next moment Drusilla had caught the back of his neck and pushed him down to all fours, leaning over him as he glanced up in surprise. "Drink, my love," she commanded, dipping a palm in the red rivulet. She brought it dripping to his lips. At the first taste, he grabbed her wrist and lapped avidly, gaze sliding back to her as his tongue slid between her fingers; and Drusilla petted him. "There, there, my pet. Drink from Mommy's hand. You must be strong to fight the dragon and bring her destiny to me. Do you know whose blood this is, Spike?"

He had never seemed more animal than that moment, when he crouched beneath her stroking hand and looked sidelong past her, narrow-eyed, upward. His gaze followed the trickle of blood. It ran along the cave floor, down a little slope . . . from a great stalagmite that towered almost as high as the cave ceiling . . . and from there, above, drops of liquid fell plink-plink-plink and fed the rivulet of red . . .

A girl lay atop the stalagmite, high above, beyond any human reach. From her dangling hand, blood dripped. And the smell of that blood . . . Spike swallowed. "It's herself?" he said.

She had been tossed up and spitted on the point of the stalagmite, impaled upon it. She wore armor, and some kind of axe or weapon--all red enamel and gleaming steel--lay a little way down the stalagmite, caught on a ledge. She was a Sleeper.

She was a Slayer.

"So that's what became of her." Spike was almost afraid to speak aloud. "Look at her, now. Wounded bad, she was. Fought hard, didn't she? Came down here in full armor, to ward off the thing's talons? Look at those bloody huge claw-marks scored into the floor. But she's only human, even if she's the Slayer. Her bad luck in the end--the dragon got her."

"The alchemist," said Dru happily, "he sent his minions down here, to steal Slayer blood for his experiments. But they couldn't reach her, and then the dragon frightened them away." She let out a girlish little laugh. "I knew it from his mind. So there she lies, till the end of the world perhaps. And bleeds, and bleeds, pretty little lost girl."

"She's still alive?" Spike marveled. "Well, well, well . . . let's eat her."

"No, Spike. First you must fetch the axe. It's the only thing that can kill the dragon. And then--" Her eyes glowed. She clasped her hands under her chin: "Then, dear Spike, our story's told! Oh! Fetch it quickly, Spike!"

"Wait. Where's the dragon, then?"


#


"Is this the place?" Wiggy whispered, tugging on Lupine's sleeve.

Now is my hour, thought Lupine. Collapsed Sleepers lay underfoot, and sometimes it was hard to avoid treading on them; he had conjured a light, but the closer they came, the dimmer it got. From ahead of them, where the way widened, seeped wisps and tatters of vapor, of no earthly origin. The way had led downward ceaselessly, and now they had arrived. He could smell power, like the aftermath of a fire, like a glow of golden rings, like beckoning treasure. Power, and blood, and a reek like a street butcher's premises. It was the heart of darkness: the Hellmouth. He would conquer the dragon, drain its magic, and become invincible.

Now is my hour.

"Wiggy, my dear," he said. "Attend." Lupine summoned power, feeling it well up dead-black in his eyes, and the girl Wiggy stiffened into a puppet and faced him, attending. "Now," he said, dropping an affectionate kiss on her brow, "you may be of use to me, child. Do you remember all those old tales about dragons? One must lure them forth, and there is one sure way to do that. So what I want you to do is very simple. Walk straight into the cavern there, while I circle round to one side. Then stand still, no matter what. The monster will come for you--and when it does, I'll have my chance."


#


The first thing Spike felt was a faint rumbling, a vibration through the soles of his feet. Then light flared up. The cave-floor was shaking; the Sleepers--both the living, and the dead--all groaned suddenly and in unison. Their heads lashed back and forth. Under their eyelids, their eyes darted. They muttered now, a low and eerie mumble whose words could not quite be made out.

Then they sat bolt upright. Cold blue light burned in their eye-sockets and the round empty holes of their open mouths. From the dead and the living alike came one voice: "GO AWAY. LITTLE VAMPIRES, YOU ARE NOT OUR MEAT. GO AWAY."

"Ooooh!" cried Drusilla with mad rapture. "Come pretty monster, come and dance in the dark with my Spike!"

"GO AWAY," said the Sleepers in the dragon's voice. "WE EAT THE PURE. GO AWAY!"

But Spike's attention was suddenly riveted on the black shadows which painted the floor, long streaks and splashes of ink-black. Velvet darkness, like chasms. Impenetrable shadows.

No. Not ink, not shadows. They were stirring. They were long tattered wings.

They lifted, rustling, opening wide, and the way ahead was abruptly all blackness--a city of dreadful night. Scales whispered, but far too loudly. How big was--? Something slithered over stone. Drusilla said, "Pretty monster!" and began to skip toward the spot. Spike caught her sleeve, put her behind him: his shoulders were hunched, his head down, his game face upon him and his center of balance low, feet braced. Barehanded. His only weapons were fists and fangs.

Then the wings unfurled fully--stretching from wall to wall of the immense cavern.

Spike was a tiny figure, silhouetted against those wings.

And a dragon's head thrust out of the seething darkness, opened its mouth, and roared.


#


London dreamed: of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings. London dreamed, while Sleepers tottered through its streets, wearing dressing-gowns and carpet-slippers, or else their plush-hatted beribboned Sunday best. Going down to the dragon. London dreamed, and a stranger fog crept eddying through its ancient cellars, leaving transformations in its wake . . . till archaic fish splashed white into being in the Fleet ditch and the Serpentine, in the city's buried rivers, and in the Pool of London east of the City. Fish that leaped abroad ships, snatched men right off their decks, and vanished back into the Thames with their screaming dinners pulled after them. London dreamed, while Hellhounds cavorted on the Isle of Dogs, and in Westminster Abbey, the bones in the crypts got up and danced. And vampires got together to toast each others' healths in human blood; "To the Slayer, may she never rise again!" was what they pledged.

While, above, Big Ben chimed the quarter-hours, beating out the words from an old hymnal:

So hour by hour be Thou my Guide,

That by Thy power, no step may slide.


Not that vampires cared about anything like that.


#


Spike fought the dragon in a rolling, tumbling, writhing knot of serpent and vampire, wings and heels. Because one arm was useless, he relied on his feet. Early on, he had pinned the dragon in a clinch, his right arm round its narrow body, his fangs fixed in its neck, and when it wound itself around him, he proceeded to try to kick it to death. Kick. Kick. Kick. With each kick, his boot-heels sank deep in its hide. Crescent wounds were ripped in the black scales. Blood welled up, turned to smoke, blew away.

Its wings rose and fell: they smashed the cavern floor, and when they did, the earth shook. The dragon roared. Spike didn't; he was too busy. More and more and more of the dragon welled up out of the fissure, pouring out like ribbons of black snakeskin. He was too close to be injured by its wings, but soon there would be too much of it to fight--

If there was a heaven for vampires, he was in it.

Drusilla stood opposite, waiting.

The girl Wiglaf, a sleepwalker among sleepwalkers, stood in the mouth of the cavern. Her face was perfectly blank. Pure as the driven snow, serene as an angel, she waited like Dru for the dragon; they actually stood in line with each other, Wiggy some ten feet behind Drusilla. Neither saw the other. Both were blind in different ways.

On every side, the Sleepers rose jerking. Some fell apart as they lurched upright. Some had their heads fall off as they moved, but they stretched out their arms nonetheless, turned like broken and awkward dolls, and staggered to the attack. Toward Drusilla and Wiggy and Lupine. They all spoke together, and on the top of the stalagmite, the sleeping Slayer opened her somnambulist eyes, looking blankly at nothing, and moved her lips: "GO AWAY. WE EAT THE PURE. LITTLE VAMPIRES--PALTRY SORCERER--YOU DISTURB US--GO AWAY, GO AWAY, GO AWAY!"

It was then that Lupine stepped forward and began to chant.

"No þæ yðe byð," he said firmly, "to befleonne, fremme se þe wille!" His eyes were black. Sleepers moved toward him, zombies with groping hands, swaying in his direction. Elsewhere, Drusilla sidled warily backwards, already surrounded by them. "Stay back," Lupine warned, his voice rising. "Undead creatures. Ac gesecan sceal sawl-berendra--." The dragon had rolled itself up in a snake-knot, writhing and threshing. Then it thumped its length down like a carpet being beaten, and Spike was flung off and hurled across the cavern. He landed tumbling, snarled once, and threw himself back into the fray. A sweat had broken out on Lupine's brow. He made mystic gestures. "Byde genydde, niþða bearna--" A Sleeper caught his elbow, and he shoved it away, and it fell and hit the floor in three pieces. "I'll soon deal with you! Ah--where was I--ah, grunde-buendra gearwe stowe--" He made more mystic gestures, with increasing desperation. "--þær his lic-homa leger-bedde fæst . . ."

Wiggy screamed, overpowered and borne down toward the floor beneath a heaving mass of Sleepers.

". . . swefeþ æfter symle!"

They woke, the Sleepers, all around them--rousing from their slumber, out of the nightmare at last. The dead fell to ruins, bones and limbs toppling to the cave floor. All at once and all together: where there had been an army, all that remained were corpses and dazed survivors. Those who lived, seemed so dazed they didn't even know where they were. The moment of triumph stretched on and on; near the cave entrance, Wiggy rose tottering and leaned against the rock wall, and Drusilla made a sound like the keen of a gull. As for Lupine, he threw his arms open. "Power of the beast," he ordered, seeing his victory, "come into me!"

Nothing happened.

"Power of the beast, I command you," Lupine repeated, "enter me now!"

The dragon roared.

It had Spike pinned down, on his back, one of its forefeet planted square on his chest; he was trying to wrestle its foot off, one-handed, with no success. The dragon rose, threw out its wings like zigzags of tattered black smoke. There was a sound like a thunderclap, and a deep low rumble like doom far away. It knocked Spike rolling sideways; its tail came around and slammed down, on his left, on his right, on his left. He barely escaped. But all its attention was elsewhere. Pale fire flickered round its long whiskered jaws. Its tongue darted out, licking air. Its tail twitched. "Someone do something," Lupine ordered, his voice high and girlish now. He backed away. "Er--vampire? You kill it. Kill it, vampire!"

"--'m trying, already--" said Spike indistinctly.

It now crouched, belly low to the cave floor like a cat. Like a cat about to pounce. Yellow flames danced far back in its gullet, kindling upon its forked tongue, playing around its teeth. Smoke suddenly wreathed its jaws, rose in wisps of spark-shot brown vapor. Its head slewed around with terrifying speed, and for an instant Spike was looking directly into its mouth. But it only blinked its slitted eyes, seemingly indecisive, and its head swung sideways again: toward Wiggy, toward Drusilla, toward Lupine . . .

Then back toward Dru.

"Kill it!" His nerve breaking utterly, Lupine darted in Wiggy's direction. As he did, he shouted. "Æfter ðam wordum wyrm yrre cwom, atol inwit-gæst, oðre siðe, fyr-wylmum fah, fionda niosian lathðra manna!"

The dragon charged, angry, a shimmering form in malignant coils, surging forward in flames. Dru screamed. It was certain death. Without hesitation, Spike threw himself into its mouth.

It went up in a beautiful arch, carrying him with it in its jaws. As it did, it roared again. At the height of its leap, it shook its head, flung him away like a rat from a terrier's teeth; he hit the stalagmite. The writhing weight of the dragon fell full on the stalagmite too, entwining it like an avalanche--then sliding down, down, down. For an instant, Spike clung to an outcropping--with the whole stalagmite rocking and swaying under him--and his gaze met the gaze of the Slayer impaled on the stone. Of course, he thought, she has heard the magic and awakened.

The stalagmite shattered. The dragon fell earthward. The Slayer fell with it, freed. Spike remained clinging to the last spar of the stalagmite, high above.

He looked down and the dragon, landing, rose again with the swan-arched recurve of its long back and deep chest and crested neck breathtakingly beautiful. It leaped forward, rippling like the great serpent it was. And breathed fire. The dim cavern was lit bright as noon. The Slayer had landed on her feet, poised like a bull-dancer. She lunged. Lupine had swung Wiggy in front of him, putting her in the way of the flames. "My axe!" That was the Slayer, shouting. "Where is--?"

In a dream of her own, Drusilla swayed toward the dragon's path. "Come pretty pretty pretty dragon," she crooned, opening her arms.

The axe was on the spar, within Spike's reach. He let go, snatched it, and threw as he fell.

The dragon flamed, crashed to earth with the axe upright in its back, and died.

The fire dimmed to embers. The whole world seemed to shout with quiet. The dragon slid backward into the crevasse, sliding into the Hellmouth, taking its last victims with it as it did: the Slayer gripped in its jaws, and Lupine's broken body pinned somewhere beneath its great neck. The Slayer had knocked Wiggy out of the path of the fire, and gone to her death in Wiggy's stead.

The last few feet of the black beast slithered into the hole, and vanished. A vast gout of flame licked out in its wake, and dragon, Slayer, axe and sorcerer were gone as if they had never been.

Silence.

Silence.

Silence.

Then--

Spike, breathing in stitches over broken ribs, became aware of Drusilla moving forward. She was singing eerily to herself, moving to a music only she heard. She poised herself on the brink of the crevasse, a wild and infinitely lovely princess playing at awaiting sacrifice. She peered over the edge. "And now--!" she said.

A ribbon of something like buzzing black fog arched out of the crevasse. It wove on the air, darted to and fro. Drusilla flung her arms open. "Come!" she said, and cried out in ecstacy as it fell upon her.It scribbled madly over her, attacking her everywhere--eyes, ears, mouth, up under her skirts-- and then poured away from her, and elsewhere.

Straight into Wiggy.

Drusilla screamed. She collapsed in racking sobs, arms wound round herself, rocking. "No! Now I'll never get it, never--oh, my poor Spike--never ever--" Spike scrambled toward her, took her in his arms. "Oh, Spike, what have you earned," she cried, "you've lost us our chance, bad dog. Why did you have to spoil the sacrifice? Why?"

"I'm the Slayer now," said Wiggy in a tiny voice. "I can feel it." All around her, dazed Sleepers were at last taking notice of their horrific surroundings. She patted one of the nearest reassuringly, turned him around and pushed him gently toward the cave entrance. The others were finding the way too. Without thought, naturally, Wiggy stepped between them and Spike, watching him every moment. "Don't you try anything," she warned. Then she seemed to reflect: "Shall I . . . ?"

Spike tensed and his arms tightened round Drusilla. A thought struck him, and he blinked. "Hey. Spell's broken: I can use both arms now. Must have been when the warlock died--? Well well." He almost rose and moved to face off against Wiggy--without thought, naturally, instinctively. And she stiffened and almost came at him, a light dawning in her eyes.

But then Dru wailed again, and the moment was gone. Spike said, distracted, "Oh, get away, girl, there'll be another day," and the girl Wiggy, awakening, stammered, "W-what was I thinking of?" and began a wary retreat. "Don't you try anything!" she repeated when she was far enough away. Then she turned and began ferociously to shoo the remaining Sleepers homeward.

He was left alone with the other dead, on the brink of Hell, with his mad lover babbling in his arms.

"--now it's all ruined, our future in ashes, ashes Spike--lost to the lamb, gone and never to be the Lovers going perfect into the light together--I'll never be her now, you're doomed, we're doomed--and all my lovely painted cards going up in fire--"

Spike didn't understand a word of it. Still, his gaze followed the new Slayer as she left him, and--for an instant--he almost left Dru and went in Wiggy's wake. But it was a hundred years too soon; he repented of the impulse as soon as it came, and kissed Drusilla's wet cheeks, and was lost.





A note on the spells, which are all in Old English. They are taken from Beowulf. Not only is this appropriate to the story, but it's also a change from Latin:

Attor on innan: some poison within.

Mara ond mðma: apple-dark steeds. (The word mara--as in Tolkein's 'mearas'?= 'horses'.)

Wrætlcne wundur-maðum: wondrous treasure-rings. (The word maðum, mathom, = 'treasure'.)

Sweord ær gemealt, forbarn brden-mæl; wæs þæt bld t þs ht, ættren ellor-gæst, s þær inne swealt: already the sword had melted away, its blade had burned up; too hot the blood of the poisonous spirit who had died within.

Strenge getruwode, mund-gripe mægenes: his own strength he trusted, the strength of his hand-grip.

Fyr on flde: strange water-fires (fire on flood).

Mn-scaða: evil-harmer, man's-scathe, scathe-of-evil; a pun on man, evil, and mn, human.

sceadugenga: shadow-walker.

stearcheort onfand feondes fotlast: the stout-hearted one discovered the footprints of the foe.

No ðær aht cwices, leð lyft-floga, læfan wolde: The fiery terror left nothing alive, wherever it flew.

Da com of more, under mist-hleoþum, Grendel gongan, Godes yrre bær: Then up from the marsh, under misty cliffs, Grendel came walking; he bore God's wrath.

Draugr, ketta: an undead spirit, its supernatural dam (common monsters of Norse saga).

No þæ yðe byð / to befleonne, fremme se þe wille, / ac gesecan sceal sawl-berendra / byde genydde, niþða bearna / grunde-buendra gearwe stowe / þær his lic-homa leger-bedde fæst / swefeþ æfter symle.: No man escapes easily from death - let him try who will - / but all soul-bearers walking the earth, / each son of man, driven by need, / must enter his place, made ready from birth / where the body-covering, deep in its earth-bed / sleeps after feast.

Æfter ðam wordum wyrm yrre cwom, atol inwit-gæst, oðre siðe, fyr-wylmum fah, fionda niosian lathðra manna!: After those words the dragon charged again, angry, a shimmering form in malignant coils, surged out in flames, sought hated men!



Posted on August 19th 2003.


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