Chronicles of Wanderer

Curses and Crumbs

By Michael Weyer

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all rights and properties owned by Mutant Enemy.

Steven St. Wolf and Randi Jessup and Wandererverse created by Steve

Panktovitch

Shaw Hunter and Ulrich Johannsen created by Tim Knight.

Robin Goodfellow, Liam Danahure, Zev Mundac, Jurden and Romino are my own creations.

 

SPOILERS:

1. Buffy died fighting the Master in Season 1's "Prophecy Girl" and became Immortal.

2. Jenny Calendar wasn't killed by Angelus in Season 2 and is engaged to

Rupert Giles.

3. Joyce Summers is still alive and knows of Buffy's life as the Immortal Slayer.

4. When Buffy died, Kendra was called as the Slayer. When Kendra was gravely

wounded, Faith

was called. Faith now works in Sunnydale and has not gone bad.

5. Amy Madison was not turned into a rat but works with the gang and is in a

relationship with

Robin Goodfellow.

6. Cordelia, Amy, Willow and Jenny are Amazons, blessed with attributes by Artemis. Giles, Oz,

Larry and Xander have been empowered to an equivalent level by Robin Goodfellow.

7. Zev Mundac now lives in Sunnydale, working with Joyce at her antiques

store and also dating

her. (Much to Buffy's displeasure)

 

 

     This one has been knocking in my head for a while and it's time to get it out. Much thanks to

Tim Knight for help with dialogue. Hope you enjoy.

 

 

Part one: In which a normal meeting leads to an abnormal discovery.

 

 

Sunnydale, CA

1904 Hours PST

June 15th, 1999

 

     Joyce Summers had to admire the house she pulled in front of. It wasn't

very large, a

simple one-story affair with the same standard California decor of the other

homes in Sunnydale.

There was no welcome mat or for that matter much of anything in the way of outdoor

decorations. Joyce

removed a box of items from the back of her car and walked up the path, her heels clicking on the

pavement, the light green dress she wore flowing nicely around her thin frame. She

stopped at the door

to ring the bell, then brushed her hair quickly with her left hand.

     The door opened and Zev Mundac stood before her. It was still difficult

for Joyce to

accept that the man was from another world. He looked entirely human, with his nice build,

graying hair and slacks and light golf shirt. He seemed surprised as he

opened the door for her.

"Joyce, come in; I wasn't expecting company."

     "Well, I happened to be in the area and wanted to drop some things off,"

Joyce said, hefting

up the box. "I know you probably don't have much in the way of decor or

ornaments."

     "No," Zev admitted. "One thing about spending decades traveling across the universe, you

don't have much chance to acquire objects." He walked into the living room, allowing Joyce to see

the nice, if sparse, foyer as she followed him.

     "I'm still surprised you found a place so quickly," Joyce remarked as she

entered the living

room.  She found a large couch, plush seat and a bookshelf already stacked with

several novels.

"Wow. How can you afford all of this?"

     "One of the first things I did once I landed here," Zev answered. "I set up a private bank

account in the Cayman Islands, then spent a few minutes hacking into the

accounts of some less

than reputable 'businesses.' Mafia, drug cartels, various slush funds from international

governments. It's amazing how much you can skim off the top without anyone noticing.

So, I'm

relatively well off." He shrugged. "It helps that the real estate prices in this town are outrageously

low."

     "Benefits of a high mortality rate," Joyce drawled. She looked around the

living room, her

gaze setting upon the mantle. "Oh, my," she softly whispered as she stepped forward, her eyes fixed on the

long object set above the mantle. "What is that?"

     Zev looked to where she was motioning and stiffened. He carefully

strode forward, reaching

up to remove the scabbard from its place on the mantle. He hefted it in his hands, looking at it

with reverence. "My world's most sacred heirloom," he solemnly stated. He gripped the handle

and pulled.

     Twenty-two inches of polished metal slid out of its silver holding and caught the light. Joyce

felt goose bumps all over her as she took it in. It was a large blade, thick

and coming to a sharp

point. The edges seemed to be made in grooves, as if ready to separate. What

struck Joyce was

the odd coloring of the blade. One half seemed to be a crimson tint, the

other half a light purple.

The handle, she realized, carried the same odd mixture, emblazoned with a large red gem in the

center of the hilt. "What is it?" she asked.

     Zev gazed at the blade, his eyes seeming to look elsewhere. "Vandor," he said in a reverent

tone. "The Fusion of the Broken Blades. The sword of the King of Reudia."

     Joyce looked at him. "Why is it...like that?"

     Zev was silent as he lowered the blade, gauging his answer. "Thousands of years ago," he

began. "There were two planets. Katar and Hydrop. And they were at war. No one knows why, I

don't think even the populations of the two planets could remember. But all they knew was hatred for each other, to attack over and over again. They fought for generations,

striking back and

forth between their worlds. Their weaponry grew more advanced, ships and

missiles that became

capable of striking between them.

     "At the same time, they both managed to explore the galaxy around them,

searching for

possible worlds to colonize. Each planet sent an expedition of several ships

and by fate, they

happened upon the same world at once. Each claimed it as their own, tensions

rose and it

appeared that the two fleets would go to battle. And then...then they got the message."

     "What message?" Joyce asked.

     Zev sighed deeply. "Their worlds had been so busy figuring out ways to kill one another

that neither noticed how unstable the radiation belt near both their worlds was. One of them, no

one knows which, fired off a missile, the field detonated and within minutes

created a cosmic

conflagration that engulfed both worlds, eradicating almost all life."

     Zev bit his lip. "Naturally, both sides were rather upset by that. They

began to argue, accusing

each other of the disaster and soon, a challenge was made. Heytor, a duke of

Katar and Jiumna, a

prince of Hydrop, the leaders of their expeditions were each transported

down to the planet, one

that could support life of both worlds. And there, they fought.

     "They fought for hours, each at the zenith of his ability. The crews of

the ships above watched

as they dueled, tearing at clothing and skin, using the environment around them for battle. They

fought uphill, through a river, almost over a waterfall, in a pond, finally ending up in a small

valley. They swung their swords at each other with such strength that the two blades shattered.

So, they went to hand to hand, punching, clawing, kicking, until both of

them collapsed in

exhaustion, bloodied and bruised."

     Joyce was spellbound as Zev stroked his blade. "They stared at one

another and slowly

realized the utter futility of it all. Everything they had, all they had

ever fought for, their homes,

were gone and they were continuing the same fight that had killed them. They

realized that it

didn't matter who won here, the two sides would continue to fight until they

were both dead and

with them, their cultures.

     "So they decided then and there to end it. The fighting, the hating, all of it. They were on

a world that had all they would need to rebuild and live upon. So they

decided to do that. To

solidify the new peace, Heytor married Jiumna's sister, Jaraus, which proved

to a surprisingly

passionate marriage. At their wedding, they were given this." Zev hefted up the blade. "Forged

from the broken remains of the two swords that had been shattered in the

final fight between their

kinds. A symbol of the new world they had made. A world they named Reudia."

     "Wow," Joyce whispered. "That's...amazing." She motioned to the sword. "And...you saved

it?"

     Zev carefully resheathed the blade. "There wasn't much left of the

palace after the destruction

wave," he explained. "I didn't have a lot of time either. I was rather

surprised to see this had

survived."

     "So you kept it."

     Zev placed the sword back onto its place on the mantle before turning to her. "I felt...if

anything should be saved...it was this." He looked down, obviously lost in his memories. Joyce

felt a pain blossom inside her. She knew she could never fully understand what Zev

had been through in his

lifetime but she did want to try to help him. She looked around and tried to

change the subject.

"Well...it looks like you've got things under control here. Would you...like

to get something to

eat?"

     Zev paused before nodding. "Certainly. Just give me a chance to get

cleaned and I'll be with

you in a moment."

     Joyce nodded and looked around as Zev headed upstairs. He paused to see

Joyce admiring

the sword and smiled. *Of course,* he thought to himself as he headed up. *It's my right to have

the sword. After all...technically, I am the king.*

 

 

Steven St. Wolf's Home

1946 Hours PST

 

 

     "What do you mean, you're leaving?" Steve St. Wolf asked as he fixed his gaze on Robin

Goodfellow and Liam Danahure. The faery and the leprechaun were standing in the living room of

his home, the rest of the Sunnydale team gathered around, as surprised at their prouncement as

Steve was.

     "It wasn't our idea, believe me," Robin said. "We just got the message that Oberon and

McAllister want to see us. And when our lords call, we go."

     "How long will you be gone?" Amy asked.

     "Hard to say," Liam answered. "We're dealing with dimensional shifts, after all. We could

be there a week, back in a hour or we could kill a few hours and not be back

for a month."

     "How do you guys keep track of all that?" Xander asked. "Hell, I can barely handle

Daylight Savings Time."

     "Well, unlike all of you, we're capable of using more than 10% of our brains,"

Robin lightly responded.

     "Jumping aside the plethora of cracks on that," Buffy said. "What do the big-wigs of the

Eternal world want with you two?"

     Robin shrugged. "Outworld, the body switch, bringing the Pantheon to Earth, Graduation,

it's a long list."

     "Been nice knowing you guys," Larry remarked.

     Liam clapped his hands together. "Well, thought we'd give you all a

heads-up. Be back

soon as we can and hopefully you won't need us for anything soon."

     "If we were that lucky, we wouldn't be living here," Willow muttered.

     Robin paused long enough to give Amy a quick kiss on the cheek before he and Liam

teleported away. Giles turned toward Steve and raised an eyebrow. "You think

they'll be fine?"

     "If it was anyone else facing Oberon, I'd be worried," Steve said. He smiled. "But if

there's anyone who could talk themselves out of any punishment, it's those two."

 

 

     "They're gonna bluidy kill us."

     "Will you calm down already?!"

     "Just promise you won't let them mess the face up, will ye, Rob?"

     "Liam, come on, Oberon is not going to order us beheaded."

     "Really?"

     "Course not. With him, we'd be talking drawn and quartered."

     The two were walking down a long corridor, torches blazing as they

tried to keep their nerves

solid. Despite their earlier bravado to the group, both were very nervous about being summoned

before their Lords.

     "What do you think it's about?" Liam asked.

     Robin shrugged. "Who knows? I hope it's not more restrictions on the magics, I really hate

that."

     Liam ran a hand through his hair. "I still hope the gang's okay."

     "Ah, relax, Liam," Robin waved off. "I've left town a few times and has

disaster ever

struck once while I've been away? No. Four, five times, sure, but once,

never!"

     They came to a large oak door and paused. Taking a deep breath, Liam shook his head.

"Well, once more into the breach," he remarked as he pushed the doors open and he and Robin

entered. The two had only taken three steps before stopping to stare at the sight before them.

     A large oak table was in the middle of the room and seated around it were a handful of

figures. Oberon was at one end, Agnus McAlliseter on the other. In between was Artemis and

across from her, Millie. On the other side were Aideen and Fin Varra.

Finally, sitting back with his

feet propped on the table was Romino, who grinned at the startled duo. "Red chips are five, blue

are ten, white are twenty.  Now, sit down and deal!"

 

 

Sunndyale, CA

2014 Hours PST

 

     The air was nice and cool as Zev and Joyce strolled through the park. He now

wore a pair of

nice slacks and dark shirt with light blazer, a more relaxed person than

usual. She gave him a light

smile. "That was a good dinner, Zev. You do know the nice places in town to go to."

     "Remind me to try to cook next time," Zev told her.

     Joyce raised her eyebrows. "You cook?"

     "One makes do when one spends a lot of time alone," Zev answered. "I can do things with

a Quantian grasshorw that'll curl your tongue."

     "Um...thanks. I think." Joyce shook her head. "You're an odd man to get

to know, Zev."

     "It's a personal trait," he answered. He brushed at his coat as they walked. "Besides, in

this town, odd doesn't quite mean the same thing, does it?"

     "True," Joyce admitted. She was about to speak again when Zev suddenly stopped in

place, his head bent to one side. "Zev...what are you-----?"

     Without warning, Zev spun around, clenching his arm. There was a

tearing as his spikes

ripped through the sleeves and swung outward. Joyce watched as a vampire

leaped out of hiding,

his fangs gleaming in the light as he dove toward Zev. The creature howled as the spikes slashed

through his shirt front and sent him back. Zev swung out his other arm, the spikes on that popping

out and slashing through the vampire's neck, beheading him.

     Joyce was watching the creature fall into dust when she felt herself yanked backward

behind some bushes. She tried to struggle with the vampire who was moving to

bite her. She

heard a yell and then Zev was there, tackling the vampire, shoving him away from Joyce. The

woman fell to the ground, crawling back as Zev and the demon traded blows. Joyce rolled onto

her stomach as she tried to crawl...and stopped in place as he eyes caught something.

     Zev ducked a blow the vampire attempted and rolled on the ground. He grabbed a loose

branch lying on the ground and held it up as the vampire charged. The demon hardly slowed his

pace before he ran into the branch, gasping before he erupted into dust.

     Zev shook his head as he threw down the branch and retracted his

spikes. "I swear, they

lose twenty IQ points when they're turned," he remarked. He looked over to Joyce. "Joyce, are

you all right?" He frowned as she didn't answer. "Joyce?"

     He walked to where she was slowly getting back to her feet. He could see her face was

now pale, her eyes wide. Zev let his gaze follow hers and a chill went

through him as he saw what

had shocked her.

     Lying on the ground before them were two small bodies, a boy and a

girl, both appearing

less than ten years old. They were dressed in nice middle-class clothes,

their skins white and

bodies limp.

     "Oh, God," Joyce whispered, her hands over her mouth. Zev draped an arm

around her in

support as they stared at the two lost young lives.

 

 

Steve St Wolf's Home

2201 Hours PST

 

 

     Joyce's hands shook as she brought the coffee cup to her lips and tried

to take a sip. Buffy sat next to her on the couch, her face marked with concern, as Giles

and Jenny sat

nearby. The team had gathered at Steve's request when he got the call from Zev on what he and

Joyce had discovered. All of them wore solemn expressions as the alien

related the tale.

     "No clues on cause of death or exactly what happened," Zev stated. "No bite marks or

obvious evidence of demonic attack--could have been magic."

     "No," Amy said from her spot on a chair. "Willow and I already checked the area out. No

spells, no traces of demonic activity."

     "Jesus," Buffy hissed. "You mean someone with a *soul* did this?"

     Faith glanced at Giles. "Giles, can you see if there are any loopholes in the rules

that say we can't kill

people?"

     "Do not worry," Shaw stated in a cold tone. "You may have such

restrictions but the rest

of us do not."

     "Let's not jump to conclusions," Steve quickly said. "We still need to learn more about the

situation."

     "Good idea, Steven," Zev put in as he paced.

     "You want some coffee?" Jenny offered.

     The Reudian shook his head. "No. I don't do caffeine. Doesn't agree

with my system. It

tends to make me irritable and short-tempered."

     With excellent speed, Amy, Willow and Oz immediately slapped hands over

the mouths of

Shaw, Xander and Cordelia.

     Buffy looked at Joyce. "Mom...are you sure you're ok?"

     Joyce sighed. "It was just...they were just children, Buffy! That's

all! Just normal kids!

They...they didn't deserve to die....not at that age."

     Zev sniffed. "Death doesn't care about age, Joyce. Or background,

religion, wealth,

class or skin color. You have to admire that about Death: It's the ultimate equal opportunity

provider."

     Joyce glared at him. "These are children, Zev."

     "Joyce, you have children killing children in pretty much any major

city every day. Why

should you be so surprised that a pair fall in a town where supernatural

horrors run amuck?"

     Giles sighed. "Zev, I really think we can do without your unique

perspective tonight."

     Faith was quiet as she cracked a knuckle absently. "God, I wanna hit something real bad."

     "Well, Zev's available," Xander remarked.

     Zev glared at him. "At least I could attribute lowered faculties to

brain damage, Harris.

What's your excuse?"

     "Okay, ease up," Steve announced. "It's late and we're all on edge and we're drawing

blanks. I suggest we head home, rest up and tackle this tomorrow."

     "I suppose you're right," Giles sighed as he stood. "I just don't

like to leave it here."

     "It won't be," Steve told him. "We'll be on this first thing tomorrow and

we'll find out the

truth."

     Zev snorted. "In this town, Steven, that's one thing you might be

afraid to find."

     "Perhaps," Steve shot back. "But it's one thing that also sets you

free." He glanced at Giles.

"Maybe contact the Watchers?"

     Giles shrugged. "With so little to go on, I'm not sure. Besides, some of the new research

assistants can be babbling morons."

     "Unlike the Watcher here who only babbles after a couple of snifters of

whiskey," Jenny

teased.

     Buffy groaned as she sat back. "I just hate this. Two kids die and we have no idea why or

how we could have prevented it."

     Zev shook his head. "Take it from one who's been down that path before,

Buffy, you

don't want to go there. These two children died and I am sorry

but you can't blame

yourself for that."

     "We should have patrolled more," Kendra remarked. "We should have

attempted more

searches instead of being distracted by our own affairs. Perhaps if we had, we could have----"

     Like a lightning bolt, the sound of Zev's hand slamming on the table caused everyone to

jump. The Reudian's face was calm as he let his gaze sweep across the room. "When it comes to

feeling guilt and responsibility over the deaths of innocent people, I have everyone in this room

beaten hands-down."

     Shaw snorted. "Not quite everyone------"

     "Twenty-six planets, Shaw. You want the exact body count or are you

satisfied you can't top

that?" As Shaw went silent, Zev continued. "People die every day. It's a

fact of life, no matter

where you are. And not even you people can be everywhere at once." His face dropped even

further. "Yes, it hurts children. Yes, it hurts to lose these small battles.

But you people do more

than that. You protect against the major threats, you know how to fight

those and you win.

Innocents die and that is a tragedy. But the greater tragedy would be if you

paid so much

attention to every one, you fail to see the apocalypses until it's too

late." He sniffed. "So stop

feeling responsible for every evil in the world. That way lies a long, cold trail."

     After a few seconds of silence, Amy turned to Shaw. "I don't know

what's scarier. When he

talks like Robin and Liam or when he talks like you."

     "He does not talk like me," Shaw stated. "I am certain he used at least

one contraction."

     Zev sighed as he brushed at his coat. "Well, I'd love to stay and chat more but I'm afraid I have

to be going."

     "Why?" Joyce asked.

     "It's a half-moon tonight," Zev answered. "It's a special prayer time for me."

     Cordelia scoffed. "Sure, use that to duck out on us."

     Zev froze and turned to glare at her. "Chase, trust me when I say that while I loathe you as a

person, I still respect

your beliefs. The least I ask from you, the very least, is to respect mine."

     "Hey, I was------"

     "I don't want to hear it," Zev snapped. "I don't want to hear about you

insulting my faith

or my beliefs, of which, I might add, I am the sole remaining worshipper. If

you do again, I can

promise I will make your life as miserable as you are making mine." He

shrugged his shoulders as

he headed for the door.

     Cordelia looked at Xander. "You think on his planet, it's the men who get premenstrual?"

     "Well," Buffy announced. "Mark one more item for 'the things to know about Zev folder.'"

     "He does raise a good point," Giles said. "We can't do much about the situation at the moment. Perhaps

a fresh start in the morning will help us."

     "Suppose you're right," Steve agreed. "It's going to be difficult with so little to go on."

     Joyce rubbed her head. "Maybe we should just leave this to the police?"

     Everyone stared at her with dubious expressions.

     "Okay, never mind."

 

 

 

Chronicles of Wanderer

Curses & Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

 

Part two: In which meetings are held and tensions begin to bubble.

 

 

Summers Antiques

Sunnydale, CA

June 16th, 1999

1013 Hours PST

 

     Zev absently ran through some sheets of sales before him. He glanced up

at Joyce, who

was arranging items on her shelves as she had been since the store opened. Even her dark dress

seemed dour as her face was drawn and heavy. "Did you get any sleep last

night?" he asked.

     Joyce started and looked to him. She paused before shaking her head. "Not really. I just

kept seeing those faces over and over..." She took a breath and looked him in the eye. "Do

you....I mean...does it ever..."

     A smile without mirth came to Zev's face. "I have a near-perfect

memory."

     Joyce stared at him. "How...how do you even..." She closed her eyes. "How can you even

sleep at night....when you can remember...?" She couldn't finish.

     Zev looked away, feeling uncomfortable. "I try not to dream. It's best that way."

     Joyce frowned, about to ask how he could do that when the door opened. She turned

around and smiled at the figure who came in. "Oh, Carol! Hi."

     Carol nodded as she entered. "Joyce. Did you hear about this?" She held

out a flyer, which

Joyce took. She scanned it and frowned. "A town meeting? Tonight?"

     Carol nodded. "It's about those murders last night. Those poor

kids...The whole town is

talking about it and they agree we need to discuss it."

     Joyce frowned deeper. "That's...unusual."

     "It's an unusual situation," Carol told her. "Listen, I need to hand out more of these. I

hope to see you all tonight, ok?" She turned and walked out the door as Zev raised an eyebrow.

"So people are killed or turned everyday and no one bats an eye but it takes

two children being

killed to realize this town isn't Mayberry?"

     Joyce gave him a look.

     "Sorry. Been trying to adapt to your culture."

     "Try harder."

 

 

     "Raise you ten," Robin said as he threw a set of chips onto the pile in

the middle of

the table. He adjusted the cards in his hand as he glanced at Oberon and

McAllister. The two

faery lords were studying him carefully, Oberon hiding a smile. /He's

bluffing./

     /How can you be sure?/ the Leprechaun King asked.

     /He always twitches his left eyebrow when he bluffs. Trust me./

     McAllister shrugged and threw some chips in. "I'll call."

     "So will I," Oberon said, adding to the pile. Robin grinned widely as he laid down a royal

flush, earning gapes from the two lords. "How....why did..." Oberon

stammered.

     Robin smiled as he twitched his eyebrow. "I've been able to control

that for about a

thousand years, my Lord," he laughed as he collected his winnings.

     Romino chuckled. "You'd think he'd have learned by now..."

     Oberon glared at him. "Don't think because you no longer reside in the Kingdom, that excuses

you from my attention, Romino."

     "I'm curious," Mille asked. "Are either of you planning to tell the

others you're brothers?"

     "Nah," Romino said with a shrug. "Not their business, really."

     "Besides," Robin added. "It's not like we'll be seeing that much of

each other."

     Liam smiled. "What they really mean is they plan to keep it under wraps

as long as

possible so when they do spring it, it'll get a better reaction." At their glares, the leprechaun

chuckled. "Sorry, lads, but I know how ye two think better than anyone."

     "I might argue that," Oberon rumbled.

     "No offense, Obe," Romino said as he shuffled the cards. "But I do have

a bit more

responsibility now, not to mention, I'm a tad higher on the power chain than

bro here."

     Millie shook her head. "I still cannot believe you brought the Pantheon

to Earth."

     "Hey, it's not like I just woke up and decided to do it one day,"

Romino quickly pointed out.

"This was a major event, Mill, and I had to fulfill my part in it."

     "A shame," Artemis said with a sigh. "Kim, Katherine and Marybeth are all fine and strong

warriors. They would have made excellent Amazons."

     "What about Shirley?"

     "Her you can keep." Artemis paused before peering at the Avatar. "Is that why you warned me

off about MacKenzie? Is she-----"

     "Well, the Pantheon isn't finished yet," Romino said with a smile as he

folded the cards.

     "How many spots left?" Oberon asked. "And who?"

     Romino looked up with an innocent expression. "If I started laughing maniacally now, would I

be in trouble?"

 

 

Sunnydale Town Hall

1902 Hours PST

 

     It was quite the crowd as Joyce, Steve and Buffy entered the town hall.

It looked as if

most of the teachers, business owners and parents of the town were gathered,

speaking in small

groups among the chairs set in the hall. There were several chairs set up before two long tables at

the front of the room where members of the city council sat. "Wow," Joyce said. "This is weird."

     "I know," Buffy remarked as the made their way through the crowd toward

the middle of

the hall. "I've never seen people get this worked up over anything before." She looked to where

Willow, Xander, Cordelia, Amy, Shaw, Faith, Kendra and Oz were gathered,

Willow waving to

her.

     "I thought being out of high school meant we wouldn't have to worry

about parent meetings

anymore," Xander remarked. "We're college bound! We're supposed to be free of parental

constraint! I see this as a sign of disrespect!"

     "How can they disrespect you, Harris, when they have no respect for

you?" Zev asked as he

walked up to join them.

     "Hey, I'm just saying..."

     "Nothing of importance. As usual."

     Steve looked to Amy. "Seen Giles and Jenny?"

     "They should be here soon," the witch answered. "They seem to be

interested in bringing in

teachers and parents to get their input on this."

     "Well, that frees me up," Willow said. "It's not like my mom's

gonna------"

     "Willow!"

     "Be coming right up to us," Willow said in a surprised voice as her

eyes widened. The group

turned to see an attractive middle-aged woman with dark hair and a nice

dress walking up to

them. "Willow, honey, I could have given you a ride!" Sheila Rosenburg said.

She paused to look

at her daughter. "Honey! You got a haircut!"

     "Um, yeah, four months ago," Willow said in a tone that hinted this

wasn't the first time she'd

pointed that out. "Oh, Mom, these are my friends."

     "Oh, yes, hello, Alex!" Cordelia looked at Xander and mouthed "Alex?" as he just shook his

head. Sheila looked to Buffy. "Oh and you must be Bunny."

     "Buffy."

     Shelia just nodded. "And the rest of you...I don't know." She turned to

Joyce. "Oh, Joy, I think

we met at a parent-teacher conference once?"

     "Yes and I prefer Joyce," the elder Summers answered.

     Shelia shook her hand firmly. "I'm so glad you came," she said in a

strong tone. "I really need

as much support as I can get for this."

     Joyce blinked. "For what?"

     The sound of a banging gavel covered the hall and Shelia looked toward the front of the room.

"Oh, I guess we're starting! I'll see you afterwards!" She turned and walked

toward the front of

the room as the others exchanged baffled looks.

     "Bunny?"

     "Alex?"

     "Joy?"

     Willow sighed and rubbed her eyes. "Now you know why I never have to make up excuses to

where I've been all night."

     Giles and Jenny entered from the back and made their way forward as the

crowd took

their seats. The head of the council coughed into the mike as he spoke.

"Ladies and gentleman,

this meeting will come to order. I think we all know why we're here. This town has suffered a

tragedy and we need to find a way to make sure it doesn't happen again."

     "If I may speak?" Sheila rose to her feet and looked over the crowd. "Hi, Sheila

Rosenburg. People, I think we can all realize that this is not a nice and safe town. There are a lot

of dangers here and a lot of unexplained deaths. And I think we can point out a cause."

     She held up the front page of the newspaper, which carried a photo of the murder scene.

"There was a symbol on the ground, one that apparently has something to do with the occult,"

Sheila announced. "I think there is a dark underground around this town and now two children

have paid the price for it. We need to do something about the occult

influences here and we need

to do it now!"

     A mummer of agreement went up over the crowd as the Scoobies exchanged nervous glances.

"Uh oh," Jenny muttered. "I don't like where this is going."

     A teacher stood up. "I think she's right. There were all sorts of signs

in high school that

teenagers were getting involved in dark arts and such that led to accidents and even deaths. We

can't keep turning a blind eye to this!"

     "Did the collective IQ of this town suddenly take an uprise?" Xander whispered out loud.

Buffy was about to answer when she saw Carol stand up. "It's not just the school. There is a lot

of evil going around this town and we need to cut it off at the source. I'm talking influences they

have like books and Internet and video games and TV and movies and all these

other people who

keep saying magic and such is just a lark and nothing to worry about!"

     "That includes making sure they don't have those things with them," Bob

said as he stood up.

"I think we should consider some searches of the most likely suspects."

     "Now hold on!" Joyce said as she stood up. "Now, listen, I'm as upset about this as all of you

are. And I know it's tempting to lash out at the most obvious scapegoat. But

this is America, if

you'll recall. We have a little thing called the Bill of Rights and we can't

just start busting down

doors just because someone's...I don't know, wearing black or something."

     Carol fixed her with a look. "This is an emergency situation, Joyce. If

we have to bend a few

rules to make sure things don't go even worse, that's a sacrifice I'm

willing to make."

     "Why am I getting the uncomfortable feeling of Germany in the 1930's?" Giles murmured

under his breath.

     "Power of positive thinking, Giles," Steve said.

     "Murphy's Law, Steven."

     "Will you two stop word associating?" Buffy hissed.

          Joyce shook her head. "I just can't agree with that approach."

     "Well, I do," Sheila said.

     "So do I," the council head stated. "I think it's important we identify

those individuals who

might be most suspect."

     "Maybe we can give them all identifying t-shirts," Zev stated from his seat. "Or maybe a

little symbol to wear. Oh, wait, tattoos! We can give them tattoos, maybe right under the arm...!"

     The council chief glared at him. "Have you made your point, sir?"

     Zev flexed his arm. "Don't tempt me."

     Joyce reached out to hold his arm and try to pull him back. "Zev, calm down."

     "Oh, relax, Joyce," Zev sniffed. "I haven't even started biting yet?"

     "Reudians don't actually bite, do they?"

     "If the occasion calls for it. And we're rabid too."

     Steve gave the alien a glare to keep quiet as the council chairman

rapped his gavel. "Very well.

All those in favor of instituting a new program to find and remove occult influences in Sunnydale,

say 'aye!'"

     Hands shot up around the room as the Scoobies glanced around the room. "All opposed?"

Joyce, Giles, Jenny and Steve raised their hands as the others just watched.

"Motion is approved

and carried," the council chairman said as he rapped his gavel.

 

 

Steve St. Wolf's House

2003 Hours PST

 

     "Okay...what the hell just happened?" Buffy spoke for everyone. The

group was gathered

in Steve's living room, all trying to comprehend the events of the night. "The capital for people

who keep their heads in the sand actually decides to take steps to

investigate the occult. Why am

I not happy about this?"

     "This is rather unexpected," Giles confirmed as he wiped his glasses. "I've never known the

town council to be so proactive about anything."

     "Or my mom," Willow added. "This is the first time she's even attended the same function as I

have in..." She paused and shook her head. "Ever."

     "It just doesn't seem right somehow," Buffy insisted. "Jenny, are you *sure* there's no

demonic influences here?"

     Jenny spread her hands. "If there is, it's damn well hidden." She

sighed. "I do wish Robin

and Liam were here, they'd be able to confirm it."

     Randi sipped at her soda pop. "It strikes me as odd that all of a

sudden they're coming

down on the occult like this."

     "Not that odd," Zev remarked. "For all your progress and

accomplishments as a race, you

haven't come that far. You still fear the unknown like you always have. And what you fear, you

destroy."

     Steve glared at him. "I think you're being a bit simplistic, Zev..."

     Zev smiled lightly. "Actually, Steven, as much as it pains me to say it, Earth isn't unique in

that failing. There are many races across the galaxy who have done the same thing." The smile

faded. "Many of them to their detriment."

     "Well, we still have to handle how the town is starting to come down on

undue influences,"

Steve pointed out.

     "What's the problem?" Faith said as she lounged in a chair. "They

finally wanna show

some balls and take a stand on the vamps and demons, more power to them!"

     "It's not that simple, Faith," Willow pointed out. "We all know how

important personal

privacy is and they're talking about pushing that aside to investigate

people because of what they

like to practice." The Jewish-born redhead raised an eyebrow. "I think you might understand why

that makes me just a tad nervous?"

     Faith swallowed and tried to be defensive. "Come on, Red, I think

you're blowing this up

a bit. It's not like they're gonna do away with the Bill of Rights!"

     Giles shrugged. "I would point out that I hail from a nation that's

found nothing wrong

with living without that document."

     "Yes and we rebelled from that," Amy pointed out.

     Steve glanced toward Zev. "What do you think?"

     The alien crossed his arms and sighed. "I'm not sure yet. It's times like this I realize just

how out of place I am on this world." He bit his lip. "I can speak from past

experiences that when

you mix feelings of tension with a tight neighborhood, the results are

nearly always bad."

     "Well, they do have the best of intentions..."

     "Giles, the pharaohs of Egypt thought they were doing the right thing by putting the

Hebrews in bondage. The Catholic Church thought they were doing the right thing when they

okayed the Crusades and the Inquisitions. The British and the Americans

thought they were doing

the right thing when they exterminated the rightful natives of Africa and America. Hitler thought

he was doing the right thing when he tried to wipe out the Jews. In the

history of this universe,

Giles, all the demons and all the vampires and all the dictators, murderers,

monsters and lunatics

combined cannot hope to match the amount of pain, death, destruction and

violence committed by

those who thought they were doing the right thing."

     After a brief silence, Xander glanced to Cordelia. "Add Zev to the list

to shout 'short

version' when explanations are coming."

     "Noted."

     Zev rubbed at his face. "A shame we can't just find these bastards, try

them, convict them

and have them executed in two or three hours."

     "Hold up," Randi said. "What planet does that happen on?"

     "Mine. It's amazing how fast the justice system goes once you get rid of

the lawyers."

     "He's got a point," Faith said. "Maybe we ought to try it?"

     Xander shook his head. "Nah. Politicians would never go for it."

     "Get rid of them first," Zev retorted.

     "Sheesh, you don't like this planet, get off it already!" Xander

yelled.

     "That's just it, Harris," Zev said. "There's so much to this world, and

I just don't mean nature.

There's so much to you. Yes, you have crime and wars and decadence. But you also have beauty,

philosophy, art, architecture. You have people who can create beauty that speaks from the soul,

writers who tell the human condition so well their words are still

remembered today. And you

have a capacity for love and forgiveness that is truly rare."

     He sat quietly, his face drawn. "I've seen so many races die. Not just from Roz but from their

own internal bickering, so many of them not reaching their potential. And some just misused it

and let it die away, let it rot and remain stagnant. You people...you have so much potential and

yet you're held back by hatred and greed and petty squabbles. If you could just look past all that,

just let what's in you come loose and spring forth, let yourselves reach

your true potential...there's

nothing you cannot accomplish. Nothing."

     "Wow," Willow whispered. "That was...beautiful."

     Buffy shook her head. "He's definitely been hanging around Robin and Liam too long."

     "Well, with respect, they're on a higher evolutionary scale than you all are so I'm more

comfortable with them."

     Steve sighed. "Zev, you just gave a gorgeous speech on the good of

humanity, can you try not

to slink back to the arrogant alien ways already?"

     "Zev's ever-fascinating analysis of humanity aside," Giles stated.

"What shall we do about

this situation."

     "I still vote for hunting down who did this and ripping them to

pieces," Faith spat.

     "I second the hunting down and ripping plan," Larry piped in.

     "I already said we're not doing that," Steve told them. "Doesn't being the leader count for

anything?"

     Zev snorted. "With this bunch? Don't make me laugh."

     Steve glared at him. "Zev..."

     "Actually, I'm serious, don't make me laugh," Zev said. "I don't think you'd like it."

     After giving him a quizzical look, Steve continued. "Let's just keep cool and handle this as

it comes. If there's one thing you can count on is that nine times out of ten, human common sense

will shine through."

     Everyone jumped as a loud-pitched squeal erupted in the room. It

sounded as if a hyena

was being dragged over a sheet of plate glass and marbles. Shaw yelled as she put her hands to

her pointed ears and everyone else flinched at the din. It took a few

moments for them to realize

the source was Zev, who was shaking in his chair, letting out a bizarre

sequence of squeals, howls

and chortles that didn't sound remotely human.

     The Reudian finally calmed down and wiped at his eyes. "Oh, Steven," he

said, his voice a

bit hoarse. "Thank you. Jurden, I needed that, really." He leaned back in his chair and chuckled,

oblivious to the stares everyone was giving him.

     Steve closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "How do they find me?"

 

 

 

 

     "Read 'em and weep," Liam announced as he lay down his hand. There were

some angry

mutters as the others threw their cards down and the leprechaun laughed as he pulled his winnings

toward him. "Ah, just what I needed for my next night out."

     "As long as you have someone to spend it on," Millie said with a wink that Robin seemed

to miss. Liam smiled and winked back, knowing who Millie was talking about.

     "By the way, Robin," Artemis said in the brief break. "I had not had the chance to thank

you for your comments in the religious debate with your charges. Thank you for standing up for

the Amazons."

     "Ah, Arty, I'm no bigot, you know that," Robin said. "Sure, I enjoy

sticking it to you now

and then but I respect the hell out of you and I'm not going to let someone trash you as a lesser

being, even if they do have my empowerment."

     Oberon studied him carefully. "It's finally happened. You're maturing."

     "With all respect, my Lord, bite your tongue."

     "Pardon me." The Eternals all turned to see a man step into their room.

He was tall and

powerfully built, with silver hair cut short and deep piercing eyes that

flicked with power. He

wore a dark robe that vaguely resembled Oriental style but with decorations and markings that

none of the Eternals had seen before. He smiled warmly at the group. "I was wondering if I might

be able to play in."

     "Who the bloody hell are you?" McAllister demanded. Like the others, he

could feel the

power within the man, knowing that he was an Eternal on their level of

power.

     "Oh, I believe Goodfellow and Danahure might know me well," the man

said. "Or rather,

the last of my worshipers."

     "We do?" Robin asked.

     The being nodded. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jurden."

 

 

 

Chronicles of the Wandererverse

Curses & Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

 

     Part three: In which tensions start to show and rise.

 

 

Home of Ulric Johnannsen

Sunnydale, CA

June 18, 1999

0904 Hours PST

 

 

     Shaw munched on the last of her cereal as she pushed her chair back a bit. She stroked

Brianna's fur and looked up as Ulric entered. "Are you all right, Father? You have been in praryer

for quite a while."

     "This situation calls for it," Ulric replied. His face was drawn as he brushed at his robes.

"The death of these children...it just illustrates the evil living in this town."

     Shaw solmenly nodded. "Yes, that is true. I only hope we can find

whoever did this.

Perhaps I should talk once more to Willow and Jenny."

     "Actually...Shaw...I've been thinking you've been spending a bit too much time with

them."

     Shaw looked up at Ulric in surprise. "What?"

     Ulric rubbed his face. "Perhaps it'd be better if you stayed home

tonight. We can start

some readings from the Bible."

     Shaw raised an eyebrow. "Ulric, I respect your teachings but I have not

been one for Bible

studies. I am not even Catholic."

     "I realize that," Ulric said. "But I have been thinking, Shaw that

getting away from the

more...well, there's no other way to say this...pagan beliefs you hold might

do you good."

     Shaw paused, putting down her spoon as she fixed Ulric with a hard

gaze. "Ulric,

those...pagan beliefs, as you put them, are the religion I have held dear my

entire life. I am not

comfortable with the idea of placing them on hold, as it were."

     "Shaw, I meant no offense," Ulric said. "It is just that...the way

things are going now in

this town, perhaps showing your beliefs so strongly is not a good idea."

     Shaw rose up, lifting her chin. "With respect, Father...I will show my beliefs as I please

and I sincerely hope you will respect that as you always have." She placed the bowl in the sink as

she spoke. "If you shall excuse me, I need to go to work. Perhaps we can

discuss this later?"

     "Yes," Ulric said. "Yes...I believe we shall."

 

 

Summers Antiques

1018 Hours PST

 

 

 

     Joyce tapped a few keys on her calculator as she looked over the books before her. Zev

was in the main area, dusting a few of the cabinets. It had been a quiet day

so far, something

Joyce was used to. She skimmed over the data, trying to balance out her

accounts. She had to

admit, it was good to have someone else to help around the shop and freed her up for the

management side of things.

     The bell over the door rang and both looked up to see Carol enter,

dressed in a nice skirt

and blouse with a sheet of papers tucked under one arm. "Hello, Joyce, Zev,"

she began. "Just

stopping by quickly and was wondering if you'd be interested in putting up some of these flyers."

     "For what?" Joyce asked.

     In answer, Carol handed her one of the flyers and Joyce looked at it and blinked. "Protect

our children, cast out temptation...Mothers Opposed to the Occult?"

     Carol nodded. "It's the new group Sheila Rosenburg has put together."

     "MOO?" Zev asked, looking at the logo on the flyer. "They actually

named it MOO?"

     "What we call ourselves isn't important," Carol said. "What is

important is what we do.

Which is to make sure that the kids of this town are shielded from improper sources of occult

origin."

     Joyce bit her lip. "Carol, while your goal is laudable...well, I'm just

not sure by what

definition of 'improper' we should be using to make our judgements."

     Carol looked about and nodded toward a vase. "That can be a good

example."

     Joyce looked to the vase in confusion. It was a simple black urn with a

carving on it of a

Hindu figure. "Um, Carol...that's a vase I got from India with a figure of Shiva."

     "A figure of destruction," Carol stated. "Showing something like that in such open

surroundings..." She shook her head. "That could send the wrong message."

     Zev snorted. "Please. Like the teenagers in this town have the right education to even

know who that is."

     "It's the impression that it leaves," Carol insisited. "We can't just have something like that

lying around. You really should get rid of it now."

     Joyce raised an eyebrow. "Carol...you're a friend and I respect you. But this is my shop

and I'll decide what will and will not be sold here, ok?"

     Carol shook her head. "This isn't a suggestion, Joyce. I'm saying you should try to do

things willingly before we start deciding what will and will not be

tolerated."

     Joyce's eyes flared and she stiffined slightly. "What I won't tolerate,

Carol, is being

threatened in my shop. I'm sure Steven would agree with me if the situation was reversed."

     To her surprise, a slightly ugly look came on Carol's face. "Trust me, Joyce," she said in a

crisp tone. "Steve doesn't exactly have the moral leg to stand on."

     "What does that mean?" Zev asked.

     Carol sniffed. "Just that someone who commits statutory rape with a

little blonde number

has no right to------"

     "Get out." Joyce's eyes were narrowed, his hands closed in fists as she

tried to rein in her

anger. Carol looked ready to say something else but wisely decided to simply

turn and walk out.

Zev watched her leave, then turned to study Joyce. "My, my," he softly said.

"It would appear

that you could give a Khundian warlord a run for the money."

     Joyce shook her head as she stormed back to her desk. "God, what was that? What has

come over her? She's always been supportive of Steve and Buffy."

     "The human mind at work," Zev dryly intoned. "A study in contradiction.

Fascinating to

watch, really."

     "Zev, I don't need your 'superior alien' act right now."

     "I'm sorry. I just can't help it with your behavior."

     "Was that a slam?"

     "When I slam you, Joyce...you'll know it."

 

 

Carol and Bob's Antiques

1057 Hours PST

 

     Shaw hefted up the box and set it on the upper shelf. She brushed her hands off as she moved

out of the storeroom and to the main area of the shop where Carol had just returned. Bob was

behind the counter, checking his ledger. "Are there any other items you

would like me to move?"

     "That box there," Bob said, motioning to a slightly open container near

the counter. "Just

take that one out to the dumpster."

     Shaw frowned as she took in the box's contents. "Robert...these are the

items I had

suggested you purchase just last month. From the Scottish collection?"

     Robert shrugged. "Yeah, so?"

     Shaw's frown deepened. "So why are you dismissing them?"

     Robert shook his head. "Those Celtic markings....the witchcraft

influence isn't right for

the shop."

     Shaw blinked in confusion. "Witchcraft? I fail to see..."

     "Pagan practices were quite common in that time period, Shaw," Carol said as if lecturing

a young child. "I think we'd all be better off without those around."

     Shaw's eyes narrowed. "Carol, I do not believe...."

     Before she could go further, the door banged open and Steve marched in,

wearing an

angry expression. "Carol, I just stopped by Joyce's. Is there something

you'd like to say to me?"

     Carol stiffened but met his gaze with a strong one of her own. "I was simply suggesting to

Joyce that it might be better if she try to comport her business a bit

better, that's all."

     "Really? Because it sounded to me like you were threatening her and

having some issues

with me and Buffy."

     Bob sighed as he rose up. "Well, Steve, I didn't want to have to say it

like this but Carol

and I have been discussing it and we both think there's something...off

about your relationship."

     Steve's eyes flashed. "Off?" he repeated in a cool tone.

     "She's a child," Carol said. "Underage which makes you both guilty of a

felony in the eyes

of the law."

     "She's 18," Steve reminded her.

     "But you were boffing her beforehand," Bob said. "That shows a distinct

lack of morals

on your part and frankly, we both think you should try to do the right thing

and break it off."

     "If memory serves, you two helped put us together in the first place and have been pushing

us on," Steve reminded her. "So I can't understand why you two are acting this way."

     "We're trying to change how this town is, Steve," Bob said. "And

frankly, if you can't

handle that, then we'd rather not have you around here anymore."

     Steve stared at him and Shaw was taken aback as well. "Bob..."

     "Steve...we'd appreciate if you could respect us even if you don't

respect yourself."

     Steve snapped his jaw shut, holding back a snarl. He turned on his heel

and stalked out,

slamming the door behind him. Shaw whirled on Bob, her face tight with

anger. "I cannot believe

you just did that!"

     Carol shrugged. "We have to be careful who we associate with now, Shaw.

Trust me, you

can't get anywhere in life if you just welcome anyone who comes along."

 

 

     "Jurden?" Robin said. "You mean...Zev's god?"

     "I am," the man confirmed as he walked in. "It's taken a while to track

you down but now

that I have..." He motionied to the table. "May I?"

     "Sure, pull up a chair," Liam announced. He watched the being do so as he started a new

deal. "Okay, guess we got a new player to deal in here. What brings you by?"

     "Oh, I simply thought it was time to meet the beings tied in the world my last worshipper

now calls home," Jurden replied. "I'm familiar with you all but it is a

pleasure to meet you."

     "Obviously, he's never met the Goodfellows before," Artemis muttered under her breath.

     Jurden smiled as he accepted the hand dealt to him. "Well, another God and from another

planet," Fin Varra said. "Been a while since I've met one of those."

     "I have some free time on my hands." The smile on Jurden's face died. "A side effect of

having one's woshippers massacred."

     Artemis looked at him with sympathy. "I know the feeling."

     "Yes, but you rebuilt. I cannot." He gazed down at the table. "When Zev

dies, so does all

faith in me. After that...well, I might finally be able to answer the

question that plaques us.

Where do the gods go when we die?"

     Liam glanced at Robin. "I see where Zev gets the brooding from."

 

 

 

Sunnydale Mall

1223 Hours PST

 

     Buffy looked up from her milkshake as she saw Willow coming up. She

wore a tired

expression on her face, slumping onto the chair and putting her head in her hands. "Oy vey," she

muttered.

     Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Uh-oh. When you start using the cliche Jewish

expressions, the

situation's bad. What's up?"

     Willow sighed and looked up to her friend. "It's my mom. She's getting into a serious kick

here with this 'occult is bad' thing."

     "How bad?" Buffy asked.

     Willow ran a hand through her hair. "She's been talking to parents all over town all

morning. She wants them to start going through their kid's rooms to look for

anything that might

indicate occult worship. She makes it sound as if it's less important they find a bag of coke then if

they find a candle."

     "Sheesh, I thought my mom was pushy sometimes." Buffy shook her head. "Ah, relax,

Will. Not like parents are going to start tearing up their kid's rooms just on her say-so."

     "Wanna bet?" The two looked up to see Xander walk up to them, the teen dropping into a

seat at the table. "Cordy stopped by our apartment on her way to work

and found her dad

trying to go through her dresser."

     "Oh, shit," Buffy said. "How'd that go?"

     "Oh, words exchanged, great was the wailing and hand gestures and Daddy

C left with the

impression he wouldn't be coming back until Cordy had 'cleaned up her act.'"

     "Wow," Willow whispered. "That's....freaky."

     "Where's Cordy now?" Buffy asked.

     Xander waved behind him. "She had to do something to ease her spirit."

     "Shopping eases her spirit?"

     "She calls it retail therapy," Xander answered. "It's an acquired

taste. Which she acquired

about ten minutes after being born."

     Buffy tapped her fingers on the table. "Is it just me or is anyone else

getting wiggins-alert

here?"

     "Reading it loud and clear," Xander stated. "This town is rising high in tension and we

seem to be the only ones who notice."

     "I'll get with Amy later," Willow said. "We'll do a sweep, see if some demon's trying to

take advantage of this."

     Buffy sighed deeply. "A few months ago, it was Outworld invading, then the body switch,

then the Pantheon mess, then Graduation. It's like there's some demented

person out there

writing all these crazy scenarios for us."

     "Ah, come on, Buffy," Xander said. "That's crazy."

     "You think?"

     "Of course. With our lives, we'd need three or four guys at least."

 

 

St. Wolf House

1547 Hours PST

 

     "Are you sure about this?" Steve asked. He was pacing the living room where almost the

entire team had gathered, all watching Jenny, Willow and Amy.

     "We did every scan we could think of," Jenny told him. "There was no demonic influences

to be felt. That is, no more than usual here in Sunnydale."

     "But something's gotta be up!" Cordelia snapped. "I mean, you've seen how people are

acting! It's like someone's messing with their minds."

     "Well, that should leave you and Harris safe," Zev muttered.

     Steve shot him a look before returning his attention to the witches. "I

still don't see why this

is happening. And, more importantly, why we're not as effected as the rest of the town."

     "Whatever it is, it'd better stop," Randi said. "At this rate, the

population will soon be

filled with idiots."

     "Soon? What do you mean soon?" Zev asked.

     Before anyone could comment, the door opened and Ulric walked in,

holding a garbage

bag in one hand. He gave them all a nod before marching toward

the training room.

The entire group shared confused looks before rising and moving to follow him.

     As they entered, they could see Ulric make a sweeping motion with his hands at the small

 

shrine of Artemis. Statues, unlit candles and more were quickly moved into the bag as Ulric hefted

it to let everything enter.

     "Um, Ulric, with all due respect, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" Jenny shrieked.

     Ulric glanced at her calmly. "Simply removing pagan imagery. I'm trying

to help you all

focus on the true spirit needed to fight." He sniffed. "I wouldn't expect a gyspy to understand."

     Jenny' eyes widened in shock as Cordelia stepped in. "Whoa, whoa,

Ulric, this is going a

little too far, don't you think?"

     "At least I do think, Cordelia. Something you should try more often."

     Zev couldn't resist a chuckle at that as Ulric looked toward Willow. "Willow, I spoke to

your mother earlier and we both agree you should start attending the

synagogue more often."

     Willow's brow furrowed. "Um, Ulric, I'm an Amazon. I give my prayers to..."

     "A pagan goddess who wasn't there to answer them during the fight

against Outworld,"

Ulric stated. "She isn't worthy of your prayers, Willow."

     "I think that's between her and Artemis, Ulric," Oz said.

     Ulric glared at him. "Well, I suppose I should have expected a reaction

like that from a

half-human creature."

     Faith raised an eyebrow. "Whoa there, Padre! I think you're hitting below the belt there."

     Ulric glanced to her in a dismissive fashion. "Faith, address me as

Father or not at all.

Either option is fine. Secondly, I would ask that the next time I see you are dressed in a more

respectable fashion."

     Faith blinked and looked down at her tight leather pants and low cut top. "What's wrong

with my outfit?"

     "Even if you have the spirit of a trollop, I don't need to see you

express it in such an

obvious manner."

     "This is my style!"

     "Well, I would imagine your mother must be proud, in whatever miserable

pit she's in

now."

     Steve's face hardened as Faith's jaw dropped. "Ulric, I think I'm going

to have to ask you to leave

now."

     "Gladly," the priest said, moving away with the bag.

     "Those stay," Jenny snapped, pointing at the bag.

     Ulric opened his mouth but the look on Jenny's face was enough to

convince him to not

press her. He simply let the bag drop with a loud clang on the ground and walked away, exiting

through the door.

     "Okay, what the hell was that?" Randi asked.

     Oz's normally sober face had grown even more serious. "This stinks."

     "The wolf is right," Zev said. "I can smell disaster."

     "I didn't know disaster had a scent," Buffy remarked.

     "It does in this town," Zev and Oz said in unison. The alien added,

"This smells worse than a

wet Kerui with a bad case of Fer's fever."

     "And if we knew what the hell that meant, we'd probably be more

receptive," Amy said.

     "You are the most infuriating Reudian I have ever met," Shaw remarked.

     "I'm the only Reudian you've ever met. Or ever will meet. Enjoy the

experience."

     "You know what I don't understand?"

     "We don't have time for that long a list, Chase."

     Cordelia glared at him before going on. "If this is some sort of mind manipulation, why

hasn't it effected us."

     "Well, if Amy's not effected, the rest of us should be safe," Xander remarked.

     Amy frowned. "Why would it effect me?"

     "All those who have been hit by the Whammy?"

     Amy rolled her eyes as Zev rubbed his face. "I swear, Robin tells me what happened to that

bitch..."

     "May I suggest something?" Zev piped up.

     "No," Buffy sourly replied.

     "That's all right, I didn't really need permission." Zev coughed.

"Perhaps we should wait

at least one more day. Give some chance for things to settle before we go on

the warpath. Who

knows, these people may actually forgo the usual human tendency and think before acting."

     "That's it? Just wait around for it to settle?" Cordelia snorted.

"Sheesh, you lose your guts

when you retract your balls?"

     The next thing she knew, two of Zev's spikes were shoved only an inch away from her

nose. The alien's eyes flashed with anger as he hissed. "Don't ever say

anything like that again,

Chase? You understand me?"

     Cordelia swallowed nervously and nodded as much as she could. Zev

pulled his arm back,

his spikes retracting and turned to walk away. He made his way toward the kitchen to get

something to drink when he heard Steve's voice. "Zev."

     Zev turned to watch Steve approach, his expression hard. "Look...we're all under pressure

here. We're all tense and we don't know how this is going to turn out. But there is one thing I

want to make clear right now."

     He grabbed Zev by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the wall so hard, the alien

felt his teeth rattle. Steve leaned in, his eyes flaring with cold anger as he spoke in a tone usually

reserved for demons. "Don't you ever pop those things at one of us again. Never, do you

understand that? Not as a joke, not as a warning, you do not use them. You do and you are out of

here, you understand that?"

     Zev looked him in the eye, seeing how serious Steve was and that this was one time he

should listen. "I've got it."

     Steve let go and turned to walk off. "Steven," Zev called. The Wanderer

paused to turn

back and look at him. Zev's face was drawn, obviously debating with himself as to what to say.

"I'm...sorry. It's been a while since I've gotten to...know anyone very

well. To be among people

for an extended period of time. It's been...difficult trying to blend in and

find my way." He

glanced away, sighing. "My past makes it more difficult. As much as Shaw and

I may be alike

when it comes to being outsiders to this world, there is the key difference that her people are alive

and mine aren't."

     He looked back up at Steve. "I'm not going to apologize for what I am or my manners.

It's how I was raised but I do want you to know that..." He swallowed. "I am

trying."

     Steve's expression softened as he watched Zev's face. "That's all I can

ask of you, Zev.

We'll make some allowances for you. But there are limits, as you just saw."

     Zev nodded before turning toward the door. "I'd better be getting home,

finish settling in.

Let me know if you need help."

     "We will," Steve said. He watched Zev go and sighed deeply. *There goes

a man who

definitely needs a woman in his life.*

 

 

Ulric Johannson's home

 

     Shaw sighed as she entered the house. She had come home straight from work, not having checked

in with the rest of the gang. She placed her purse on the table as she

headed toward her room. She

could hear whispers from a side room and knew Ulric was in prayer. She

headed to her room,

deciding to wait until morning to talk to him about the tension that had

been lying in the town.

For now, she needed to pray before taking a rest.

 

     Inside his room, Ulric knelt, eyes closed, a crucifix and beads in hand

as he prayed, his

voice filled with heartfelt emotion. "I will do what I can to avenge those children. I will do

whatever it takes to weed out the influences that led to their deaths. No matter the cost, no matter

what it entails, I shall do it."

     A pair of voices spoke up. "We know you will."

 

 

 

Chronicles of the Wanderer

Curses and Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

     Part four: In which tensions rise further and hearts are broken

 

 

Summers Gallery

1023 Hours PST

 

     "This is starting to become bothersome," Zev muttered as he ripped a

handful of MOO flyers

off the windows of the shop. He crunched them into a ball and threw them aside

as he entered the shop. Joyce was once more behind the counter, tapping her

fingers on the surface.

She looked a little ragged as she rubbed her eyes. Zev gazed at her with

concern. "Are you all right?

You seem distracted."

     "I'm sorry," Joyce sighed. "I just...didn't get a lot of sleep last

night."

     Zev saw a look of hidden pain in her eyes and narrowed his own. "What

happened?"

     Joyce bit her lip and looked away. "I...got a few phone calls. No names

but...they made it

clear that it would be a lot better for my health if I...stopped selling

'immoral materials.'"

     Zev's skin literally turned red as anger coursed through him. He paused

to gain his self-control and shifted his pigmentation back to normal before

speaking.

"Someone is going to be

getting a very nasty wake-up call themselves..."

     The bell over the door rang and the pair turned to find Sheila Rosenburg, a

wide smile on her face. "Hello, Joy," she said. "I was hoping to see you."

     "Sheila," Joyce said in an even tone. "Just what brings you here?"

     "Well, I wanted to know if I could get your help with MOO."

     "Well, you can start by changing a really stupid name," Joyce remarked.

     Sheila shook her head. "Joyce, you can't just ignore this problem."

     "Sheila, the only problem I see is the one you're stirring up with

this...witch hunt," Joyce

said. "Honestly, this town is getting in a very ugly frame of mind that

makes me rather

uncomfortable."

     "The good people have nothing to worry about," Sheila said. "It's the

ones who have

something to hide that need be concerned. I'm hoping that doesn't include you."

     "Mrs. Rosenberg," Zev spoke up. "May I say I am rather disturbed by

your attitude. I

would think that someone like you would not stoop to using Gestapo-like

tactics."

     "Well, I’m sure they had their reasons."

     Zev and Joyce both stared at her incredulously. "Excuse me?" Joyce asked,

certain she hadn't heard Sheila correctly.

     "Well, they were trying to help their country as much as possible,"

Sheila went on. "If that

required some sacrifices, so be it. They went too far, I'll admit, but they had

the best intentions."

     Zev and Joyce both continued to stare. "Mrs. Rosenburg," Zev

said in a cold

voice. "There is only one woman in the universe I have felt utter disdain

for more than you at this

moment."

     Sheila peered at him. "Mr. Mundac, I am a woman."

     "And I'm from a world where equality of the sexes was a given. Keep

that in mind."

     "I can't believe you, of all people, would be defending the Nazis,"

Joyce added.

     Sheila shrugged. "Well, at least they don't have daughters who dress

like whores and throw

themselves on any warm male body."

     Seeing Joyce's eyes shoot wide open, Zev marched forward and grabbed

Sheila by the arm.

"Good-bye, you're leaving."

     "What?" Sheila stammered as Zev dragged her away.

     "I said good-bye, we don't need your garbage around here.  Now, good day,

madam!" Zev snapped as he pushed

open the door, shoved Sheila out and slammed it behind her. He brushed his

hands as he turned back

to Joyce.

     "Thank you."

     "Well, I was saving us the cost of the damages we’d suffer after you

kicked her ass and threw

her out the window" the alien replied.

     Joyce raised an eyebrow. "Is this how you sweet-talk a woman?"

     "I'm working on it."

     Joyce nodded, then paused. "You actually told her to have a good day?"

     "I'm learning to speak without sounding condescending in the unlikely

event I ever need such a

skill."

 

 

     Shaw glanced at her watch and picked up her pace. She was already

running later than

usual for work, thanks to a morning argument with Ulric. *I cannot

understand his sudden push

for me to become Catholic,* the Harper thought. *I would almost think he now

despises the

Lady.* She paused as her eyes focused on a familiar figure walking down the

street nearby.

"Jessica!"

     Her friend turned her head, saw Shaw and then turned back and started

to walk faster.

Frowning, Shaw picked up her pace to catch up to her. "Jessica!" she called

out. She reached out

to grab her by the arm. "Jessica, I have not seen you the last few days,

what is wrong?"

     Jessica sighed, seeming to make a decision as he turned to face the

half-elf. "My mom says

I shouldn't be hanging around with you anymore, Shaw."

     Shaw blinked in surprise. "What? Why?"

     Jessica sighed. "She says you're a bad influence on me."

     "Jessica, I am sorry about your mother's feelings but------"

     "I think she's right."

     Shaw was dumbstruck, jaw hanging open as Jessica glared at her.

"Listen, Shaw, you hang

around that nut-job Summers..."

     "Jessica!"

     "And that slut Pryce..."

     "Jessica!"

     "Ah, she'd screw anyone and you know it. Even that fruit Larry.

Also...you hang out with

folks who like the wiccan lifestyle." Her eyes narrowed. "In fact...I think

you like magical stuff too,

don't you?"

     Shaw stammered. "W..well, yes, I do, but..."

     Jessica nodded and backed away. "That settles it then."

     "Settles what?" Shaw asked, not understanding any of this.

     Jessica looked at her and Shaw was taken aback by the utter disdain in

her eyes. "The last

thing I want is to be seen with a freak like you."

     She turned and marched away, leaving Shaw standing in the middle of the

street, trying

through sheer force of will to hold back her tears.

 

 

 

 

Ulric Johannson's Church

1104 Hours PST

 

     "I don't know," Larry muttered as he and Jenny walked down the aisle of

the church.

"You sure this is a good idea?"

     "I just want to talk to him," Jenny said as the two headed toward the

altar. "Just a nice,

reasonable talk, which is why I'm bringing you along. You tend to be more

level-headed than

most of the others."

     "Thanks," Larry said as they reached the altar. "Hope that'll be enough

for this."

     "Relax," Jenny said. "Ulric has always been more than

accomodating------"

     "Get out," Ulric said as he stepped to the altar.

     "There's the irony alert again," Larry remarked.

     Jenny frowned as she stepped to the priest. "Ulric, we wanted to stop

by and talk..."

     "I have nothing to say to either of you," Ulric snapped. He turned to

the altar. "Leave now

or I'll have you removed."

     Jenny stood her ground, crossing her arms. "Ulric, you have never

disapproved of our

beliefs in Artemis before, or Shaw's for the Lady. Why now?"

     "The forces of good cannot be divided over anything, Jenny," the priest

said. "They must

learn that only one God is worth following in order to win the fight."

     Larry shook his head as he moved forward, reaching for Ulric. "Look,

Ulric, we're getting

worried about your new attitude-----"

     Ulric slapped the hand away and snarled at Larry. "Don't you ever touch

me, you faggot."

     Larry froze, his jaw dropping in shock and hurt as Ulric continued.

"When you chose to be

this way, you have condemned yourself. They have a chance to save themselves but

not you. You made

your choice."

     "Father, it wasn't a choice, it's------"

     "Don't you DARE say God made you like this!" Ulric yelled. "He wouldn't

make such an abomination like you. If you truly want to make the world a better

place, Larry,

then kill yourself so you

can't pollute it anymore."

     Larry's jaw had tightened as he tried to fight back the anger in him.

Jenny wasn't fighting,

instead marching forward and standing before Ulric. "How dare you!" she

snapped. "How can

you suddenly decide to turn on him like that? Goddess, Ulric------"

     Like a gunshot, the sound of his fist smacking into her face echoed

through the church.

She stumbled back, holding her jaw, more shocked by the fact of the blow

than the force. Larry

was frozen in shock as Ulric simply rubbed his hand, his eyes cold. "That

was for blasphemy in

the Lord's house," he intoned. He turned and headed back to the altar. "Now,

kindly remove both

of your corrupt souls from here before I take more drastic measures."

     He walked away and Jenny and Larry simply stared at one another with

blank looks. "I

don't have a bad feeling about this," the jock said. "I have a horrible

feeling about this."

 

 

Bob and Carol's Antqiues

1113 Hours PST

 

     The moment Shaw stepped into the shop, she could sense something was

wrong. Both

Bob and Carol were leaning over the counter, whispering to each other. The

moment Shaw

entered, they looked at her with cool gazes and dark frowns. The Harper was

still reeling from her

encounter with Jessica and hadn't fully processed what had happened as she

placed her purse down.

"I am sorry I am late," she softly said. "I was...delayed..."

     "Shaw," Bob broke in. "We have to talk."

     Shaw straightened and faced him. "About what?"

     Bob sighed. "Well....this is somewhat difficult and I've never really

done it before and it's

hard to put into words..."

     "You're fired."

     "Thanks, hon."

     Shaw blinked. "What?" she asked softly.

     "You're fired," Carol continued with a touch of venom in her voice.

"Please leave now

and don't expect a recommendation from us."

     "We've been talking to Ulric," Bob said. "He's made it clear you

associate with the wrong

kind of people."

     Shaw shook her head. "I had thought this was a place of equal

opportunity employment."

     "It is," Bob said. "For the ones who deserve it."

     Shaw set her jaw. "If that is the way you want it."

     "It is."

     "Fine." She leaned forward. "But a little word of advice; if this is

what you consider equal

opportunity, then I will have to use the same standards with my magic."

     Carol and Bob both cringed at the use of the word. "You said you

weren't a witch!" Carol

snapped.

     "And that is true. I have no talent for such magic. In American terms,

me heap big

medicine woman." She turned and began walking toward the exit. "And if I

cannot have equal

opportunity in this store, then you will not have equal opportunity for the

healing magics I have

inside me." She turned at the doorway and glared at them. "These medicines

have saved

numerous lives. You were my friends or so I thought. I hate to think of what

will happen if you

have to pay large medical bills because you discriminated against someone

who has saved this

town many times over. And one more thing: Buffy is eighteen years old. She

is an adult in the eyes of the law. Since

Steven's explanation did not get through to you, I shall be blunt. You

called Buffy a whore

for sleeping with Steven. Steven rightfully reminded you that YOU were

involved with getting the

two of them together. So if Buffy was a woman of ill repute, although I know

that not to be true, it is

because YOU were the whoremongers. So you can, if you use a human

phrase, take your

Goddess-damned superior morals and shove them up your white bread American

asses. Good

day!"

     She walked out, slamming the door behind her and leaving a speechless Bob

and Carol in her wake.

 

Rosenburg Home

1148 Hours PST

 

 

     Willow took a very long look in the mirror as she drew a deep breath,

trying to steel

herself for the trial to come. She brushed her hair back and sighed deeply.

*Come on, Willow.

You've faced demons, vampires, mercenaries and even your own evil double.

You can handle a little talk with Mom.* Her pep talk to herself finished, Willow

exited her room and

headed downstairs.

     She saw her mother on the phone, jotting something on a notepad while she

spoke.

"So it can be at

eight? And the library is okay? Thank you very much, Mr. Superintendent.

Yes, I'll see you there,

thank you." She hung up as Willow walked in.

     "What's going on, Mom?" Willow asked.

     "Oh, I'm just getting ready for the burning tonight," Sheila casually

remarked.

     Willow stared at her. "Excuse me, the what?"

     "Well, we're getting together various occult materials, candles,

symbols, artifacts, books

and the rest," Sheila explained. "And tonight we're forming a big bonfire."

     Willow stared at her for a full ten seconds before speaking.

"Mom...you're sounding a lot

like the guys who tattooed the numbers on Grandpa's arm."

     Sheila shrugged. "I'm only doing what's right, Willow. You should know

it's what I do. I

try to do right by you."

     Willow clenched her jaw. "Since when?"

     Sheila rose her head and looked at her daughter. "Excuse

me?"

     "Since when have you given a darn about doing right by me?" Willow

asked. Years of

pent-up feelings were beginning to break through as she crossed her arms and

stared at her

mother. "It's been four months and you still haven't noticed I've even

cut my hair, Mom.

I'm out all hours of the night, I spend time with Oz, with Amy and Jenny,

I've come home with

my clothes a mess and you never say a thing! You never even notice it! You

never have!"

     "Honey, I only want what's best for you..."

     "Mom, what's best is a mother who will actually take time for me!"

Willow cried out.

"You have been like this my entire life! Goddess, do you see the irony here?

You write books,

you lecture, you spend every day dealing with the problems of children

yet you can't even

spend ten seconds to ask me how my day was!"

     "Willow, honey, I know this must be upsetting," Sheila said in a

condescending tone. "I

know you've been...tempted a bit by such untoward influences...."

     "Tempted? Tempted?" Willow's eyes flared. "Oh, yeah, I've been tempted,

Mom. You

know Oz? He's a werewolf. Oh, and I've slept with him. That's right,

virginity went bye-bye a long

time ago for your baby girl! And I'm a witch!"

     Sheila sighed and rolled her eyes. "Honey...please...I know you're

trying to get some

attention here but this isn't the way..."

     The fact that her mother thought she was just making a scene infuriated

Willow even

more. She turned, her eyes fixed on a vase on the kitchen table. She held

out a hand and muttered

under her breath. Sheila froze, her eyes fixed on the vase as it shook, then

rose in the air. It

floated from the table to the counter and set itself down.

     Sheila looked at it, then at her daughter, then stood up and pointed a

finger. "Get out of

my house," she hissed.

     Willow blinked, her anger dissipating as she realized what she had

done. "Mom..."

     "Get. Out." Sheila's eyes showed more anger than Willow had ever seen

in her entire life.

"Out of my home, right now. Never show your face here again."

     "Mom," Willow started.

     "NOW!" Sheila screamed. Willow's jaw trembled as she backed away. She

finally turned

and ran out of the house. Behind her, Sheila settled down, raising a hand to

her head and shaking

it. She paused, her head craning to one side and slowly nodded. "Yes," she

softly said. "Yes,

you're right. She must be dealt with."

 

 

Summer Antiques

1217 Hours PST

 

     Joyce looked up as the shop door opened and was surprised at who

entered. "Mr. Giles? What

are you doing here?"

     The Englishman pushed his glasses up his nose as he spoke. "Well, I was

looking for Jenny. She

wasn't at home and she hasn't answered my calls.  I wondered if perhaps

she stopped here."

     Joyce was quiet as she looked at the counter. "She....she's in the

back."

     Giles was instantly on alert. "What happened?"

     Joyce bit her lip. "I'm not sure. She came in here a little while ago,

she seemed really upset

but didn't want to say why. She's in the back now."

     With a frown, Giles walked past her and to the back. Joyce sighed as

she went back to her

ledger. She had been working for only a few minutes before a yell caused her

to drop her pen and

leap up. She turned in time to see Giles burst out of the back, storm past

her and head toward the

front door. "Giles? Giles, what is it?"

     Giles reached the front door just as Zev entered, a bag in hand. "Okay,

we have that salad

you wanted and----" He stopped as Giles brushed past him. "Excuse me, Giles

but----"

     Giles looked at him and the man who had seen the destruction of 26

planets felt himself

backing up, a chill shooting up his spine at the look in Giles' eyes. The

Briton stalked past and

Zev watched him go before turning to Joyce, his face ashen. "What in Surton

was that?" he

choked out.

     "The Ripper," Jenny coolly replied from the doorway to the rear.

 

 

     "I'm a bit confused," Jurden said as he shuffled his cards. "If this

Merlin character is so

important, why doesn't he know the truth about the Scroll?"

     "Because he's human," Zeus answered. "The same with Withers. They're

both good

men."

     Everyone stared at him.

     "All right, that's stretching it a bit," Zeus admitted. "But they're

not evil. Still, this is an

Eternal matter. It is not for humans to understand."

     Jurden raised an eyebrow. "If you're going to protect these people, you

might want to

have the same faith in them that they have in you."

     Romino smiled. "Oh, I like you."

     Oberon glanced at him. "You helped your brother write the thing,

Romino."

     "And I still think it was a good idea," he confirmed. "But I have

broadened my horizons.  Promotion to Avatar does that to you."

     "So, we should tell them?"

     "Oh, no," Romino said, shaking his head. "No, telling more people means

the risk of the

truth getting out and we can't have that."

     "You should have wiped their memories, Robin," Oberon grumbled. "

     "Hey, they swore not to talk and I believe they'll keep that vow," the

faery argued.

     "Shaw will not break her oath to me," Millie put in.

     "Or Amy to me," Artemis aded.

     "And Joyce is a nice sort," Liam said. "She won't speak."

     Oberon sniffed. "Perhaps we should make sure she won't."

     Millie, Artemis, Robin and Liam all glared at him. "Don't. Even. Think.

About it," the

Goddess of the Hunt hissed.

     "It would solve-----"

     "You even touch her and I'll come after you, Oberon. And Titania will

back me up."

     "Well, now I see where humans get hypocrisy from," Jurden remarked.

     Artemis looked at him in confusion. "What?"

     "You're threatening Oberon not to kill a single woman. Yet, if this

scroll comes to light,

you're willing to help destroy humanity, including your own warriors on

Earth. Fascinating

thinking there."

     Artemis sighed. "It's not that simple, Jurden. I'm protecting this

woman because she has

done more for her people than many who are more capable than her. She has at

least earned the

right to live her life without our interference and I'm willing to defend

her life."

     "Until the battle to end that life takes place," Jurden quietly said.

     Artemis blinked, caught by the logic. She looked down as she mumbled.

"I never said I

was perfect, Jurden."

     Millie shrugged. "Well, for my part, I do not have to worry about that

question."

     "Are you saying you won't fight with us against Earth?" Oberon demanded

     "Why should I?" Mille answered with a shrug. "I have only one

worshipper there and I

have no intention of forcing her to kill those she loves."

     Artemis gave her a hard look. "If the Prize is won, we're all

threatened, Millie. We are a

community. The Gods must unite in this."

     "I don't," Jurden remarked. "I have no true connection to Earth. I

don't care about this

Prize of yours. So, if it comes, Millie, count me on your side."

     Millie smiled. "Thank you, kind sir."

     Robin frowned. "Millie, are you saying Shaw doesn't have to fight

against her family

then?"

     "Of course not," The Goddess answered.

     "Does she know that?"

     "I'm certain she does."

     "No, she doesn't."

     Millie looked up at Liam. "What?"

     "We talked to her after the truth came out," the leprecahun said. "She

thinks she has to

fight for you against the others if the truth comes out. She thinks she has

to kill Amy if it comes to

it. She still does."

     Millie's face paled as she realized what Liam was saying.

     "Well, sounds like another trip to the Hellmouth is in store," Robin

remarked.

     "Shut up," Millie snapped. She turned to gaze at the other Earth Gods.

"And as for all of

you, I am ashamed. You all say you'd abandon your children and wipe out

humanity. You're

supposed to be the protectors of Earth, not its destroyers."

     Oberon snorted. "So says the woman who left Earth when her religion

died out."

     Millie peered at him. "You may or may not recall, Oberon, that I went

to the Light

Himself and asked him to take care of my children here." She let her gaze

include Zeus and

Artemis as well. "It seems to me that you are all so intent on cutting off

the body to save the limb

that you fail to try to do things through simplicity. If the Prize was won,

you could easily band

together to destroy the mad Immortal and prevent his power from being used.

But no, you would

rather undo *everything* they've done from the time we drove the Old Ones

from Earth millennia

ago. You would rather emulate the Old Ones and that makes me sad."

     Jurden smiled warmly. "Now her...I like."

     Zeus shook his head. "Better safe than sorry, Millie. A being of such

power could threaten

several realms, not just Earth. Realms like yours."

     "I can handle it."

     "By yourself?" Artemis asked.

     Millie glared at the Hunt Goddess. "Is that a threat?"

     "No. Merely a warning."

     Jurden rolled his eyes. "I think I know what Zev meant about testosterone

overload not

being limited to males."

 

 

 

Ulric Johannsen's Church

1315 Hours PST

 

        Shaw entered the church, her mind still reeling. She had been walking around town for the last few hours, trying to deal with what had happened. Being fired, her confrontation with Jessica and the overall mood of the town was weighing heavily upon her. So she was not happy to see Ulric walking through the church, holding some of her prayer items. “What are you doing?” she said in a louder voice than she intended.

        Ulric simply shrugged. “Even if you do not respect God personally, you can respect me not to have such items in our home.”

        Shaw stiffened and tightened her jaw. “Perhaps you should take your own advice.”

        Ulric was surprised. “What?”

        Shaw crossed her arms. “You say magic is an affront against your God? You say he will not respect me? Let me remind you, Ulric, who was it who sent me here?”

        At his sudden quiet, Shaw nodded. “Yes. And your God trusted me with participating in a prophecy meant to keep your world, which was not mine at the time, from burning. He also entrusted one of YOUR most holy relics in my care and I kept it safe for MONTHS. Now, here is another to think about. The Sword of St. Catherine is magical, whose source is YOUR God. So I will thank you not to be so hypocritical, Ulric. You are the person I like to think my father was like, but there are things you do NOT say because I WILL not tolerate them.”

        Ulric was quiet for only a moment before his upper lip curled. “Quite frankly, Shaw…if your father practiced the same beliefs as you…I am rather glad he died before we met.”

     The doors to the church burst open and the Ripper marched in, fire in his

eyes. Shaw was

startled, even more so when he pushed past her, marched toward Ulric and

blasted him with a

fist to the jaw.

     "Giles!" Shaw shrieked. "What are you doing?"

     "He struck Jenny." Giles' voice was colder than ice.

     Shaw froze, staring at the priest in shock. "What?" she choked out.

     "She made a comment about Artemis and he struck her for 'blasphemy.'"

He glared down

at Ulric. "You get back up and that’s the last bloody thing you’ll ever do!"

     "Standing up for a heretic, Giles?" Ulric snorted as he rose to his

feet. "I thought you a

better man."

     Giles snarled and moved forward only to have Shaw block his path. "I

will not allow this!"

Shaw screamed. "Not here!"

     "Stand aside, Shaw," Giles hissed.

     "No." The Harper stepped before Giles and turned to Ulric. "Ulric, you

had no right to do

that to Jenny. She is not for you to criticize. You went beyond your

boundaries with this." She

looked back to Giles. "Giles, this is not the way. Consider what is

happening, and rein in your

temper before you do something you will regret later."

     Giles' jaw was set so hard, Shaw could hear his teeth grind. He finally

backed away, his

face still tight but starting to lose its redness. "Very well. I will let

you handle this."

     "She will do no such thing." Shaw and Giles both turned to Ulric. The

priest's eyes were

flaring more angrily than ever as he hissed out his words. "She has no

respect for God, so I'll not

heed what she says. And I will not tolerate any worshipping of pagan Gods or

idols in my home."

     Shaw stiffened. "Is that so?"

     "Yes."

     Shaw slowly nodded. "So be it." She turned to Giles. "Giles...I believe

I will be staying

with Amy for the foreseeable future." She looked back at Ulric. "I shall

miss you." She turned and

began to walk out.

     Giles turned to Ulric. "I consider myself a good Christian, Ulric. But I

swear to God,

YOUR God, if you hurt her, I will pay you back."

     Ulric simply stared back. "I'll pray for you, Giles. I'll pray your

time with that Gypsy

whore doesn't damn your soul."

     Giles clenched his fists, managing to stop himself from launching a

punch that would break

Ulric's neck. Instead, he gave Ulric a final glare before following Shaw

out. The priest watched

them leave and then turned and walked to his office, his head bowed.

     He entered and shut the door behind him. He stared at the floor before

he heard a voice.

"So now you know."

     Ulric turned to see two children, a boy and a girl, standing before

him. Both wore smiles

as they gazed at the priest. Ulric saw absolutely nothing wrong in the fact

that they looked exactly

like the two children who had been murdered two nights before.

     "You know what she is now," the boy continued. "You know what a blight

she is on life."

     "There's only one way to deal with her," the girl added. "You know what

has to be done."

     "Yes," Ulric said with a nod. "Yes, she has to die."

     He turned to his desk and picked up the phone. Dialing a number, he

paused before

speaking. "Hello, Mrs. Rosenburg? This is Father Ulric. I do believe we need

to talk."

 

 

Chronicles of Wanderer

Curses and Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

Part five: In which tensions start to burst and an unexpected move is made.

Steven St Wolf's Home

Sunnydale, CA

June 19th, 1999

1523 Hours PST

 

 

     The tension in the house was so thick, Zev and Joyce felt it like a

wave of hot air as they

entered. They took in the scene in the living room. Steve leaned

against a wall as Buffy

angrily paced back and forth. Randi, Faith and Kendra all had pissed-off

expressions as they shared a

couch. Willow was slumped in a chair, her eyes red from tears as Oz stroked

her back. Xander

and Cordelia had wisely shelved their usual smart comments for the time

being. Shaw, Amy, Giles

and Jenny weren't present in the room but the two adults knew that they were in

the house somewhere.

     Buffy paused as she looked at her mother. "What's up? I thought you

were open later

tonight."

     "Well, I thought it best to close early," Joyce answered. She didn't

want to get into

details.

     "It had to do with Carol calling and threatening to come over with a

baseball bat for our

window." Zev had no such qualms.

     Buffy's eyes widened. "She what? Oh, that's it!" She started to move

but was caught by

Steve. "Buffy," the Wanderer said. "Come on. Yelling at her is not the way

to solve or settle this."

     "You're right! An ass-kicking is the way to settle this!"

     "Buffy," Joyce snapped. "Ease up. I'm not happy with the situation

either."

     "It is getting out of hand," Giles said as he and Jenny entered the room.

The

Englishman still looked angry. "You know what Ulric did to Jenny?"

     "We heard," Kendra said. "And none of us can believe it."

     Giles shook his head and rubbed his temples. "I should have hit him

harder. That

miserable, bloody-----"

     "Amazing," Zev noted. "When you're ranting and murderous, you're the

epitome of

elocution. It's when you try to talk normally that you're a stammering

wreck."

     "A by-product of relearning English," Giles answered, trying to calm

down. "Shifting back

from being ‘Ripper' to a Watcher."

     "Ah, the linguistics skills of humanity," Zev said as he took a seat

near the window. "You

know, you people are truly unique. Do you realize that you have more

languages in the Western

Hemisphere alone then dozens of planets combined?"

     "Hate to interrupt your lecture, Professor," Xander broke in. "But

we've got more

important things on our plate."

     "Like what the Hell is going on," Faith said. "This whole town has

suddenly gone whacko!"

     "I know!" Xander said. "They've shut down the only place to have fun!"

     "They've closed the local motel?" As everyone stared at him, Zev closed

his eyes as if in

pain. "It's the water, isn't it? It has to be something in the water."

     "I meant the Bronze," Xander clarified.

     "Calm down, Xander," Jenny said. "It's not the end of the world."

     "Oh, yeah? They're closing that cyber caf‚ downtown too!"

     "Dear Goddess, call the ACLU!"

     "Are you people taught to be this hypocritical or is it a character

trait?" Zev remarked.

     "You know what I don't understand?" Cordelia said.

     "We don't have time for that long of a list, Chase," Zev dryly remarked.

     Ignoring him, Cordelia went on. "How come we're not on the same

anti-magic kick as the

rest of this town?"

     "She's got a point," Randi noted. "If this is some sort of mind

manipulation, how come

we're not effected?"

     "Well, in Harris and Chase's cases, there's not that much mind to

effect..."

     "Shut up, Zev," half the room barked.

     "What if there is no manipulation?" Willow said, her voice low. "What if

this is really...them?"

     "I don't accept that," Buffy said. "I can't. This town is better than

that."

     "How can you be sure?"

     "Because if it's not, then what the Hell are we fighting for?"

     "She's right," Zev said. "You can't just surrender to this. Did Britain

quit after the Bismarck

struck? Did America after Pearl Harbor? Did Zandu after the Poilti

Massacre?"

     Everyone looked at him, then at each other, muttering in confusion. Zev

rolled his eyes.

"Galactic culture is so wasted on you people."

     Buffy rose up and walked toward the kitchen where Joyce had been making

some coffee. She

nodded to her mother and shook her head. "God, Will's in so much pain over

this," Buffy sighed.

     "I can't believe I used to be like Sheila," Joyce remarked.

     Buffy looked at her with surprise. "What? When?"

     "Buffy, I didn't know about you being a vampire slayer for two years. I

think that's a

good indication I wasn't an attentive mother."

     Buffy's eyes widened as she shook her head. "Mom. Please. Will's mom took

six months to notice she had cut her hair. She called me 'Bunny.' She calls

Xander 'Alex.' She

doesn't even know

Cordy's last name. She spends all her time on books and tours and no time

with Will." She reached

to touch her mother's shoulder. "You have always been there for me, Mom.

After Angel, even

though you didn't know, with Outworld and Roz, you've been my rock. And

you took the

whole supernatural thing a Hell of a lot better than she did."

     Joyce sighed. "For her to treat her daughter like a monster...that

makes me so angry."

     Buffy smiled. "Mom, I'm glad you're here. If you were on their side, I

don't know what

I'd do."

     "You'd handle it," Joyce assured her. "You have Steve, you have Giles

and the others.

They can help you." She tousled her daughter's hair. "Now go help Willow."

     "My dad has been looking at me funny," Amy was telling the others.

"Dirty glares and I

think he's been going through my room."

     Randi sighed. "It's Brian on my end. He's been keeping his distance big

time and I don't

like it."

     "They're concerned," Zev stated. "Whatever is happening must be

exacerbating it."

     Amy glared at him. "Oh, so I should be glad my father is on me about my

faith? What

about you, Zev, did you ever have to see your father trying to take your

rights away?"

     The man's face and voice were both cool and blank. "No. I only had to

see my father

stabbed in the chest by his daughter with a spear holding the crystal,

making his body ground zero

for the wave of energy that destroyed my homeworld."

     Amy stared at him. "You really know how to knock the knees off a good

rant, don't

you?"

     "How about your parents, Oz?" Xander asked. "What do they have to say

on this?"

     "Just that hanging with you guys was uncool," the werewolf answered.

     "Doesn't sound bad."

     "Are you kidding? That means they're royally pissed."

     "Oh. Sorry, it's hard to figure you guys out."

     "It's our gift."

     "It's just so hard," Willow sighed. "How do you handle your parents

hating you?"

     "You get used to it," Xander said before he could think. "Treating you

worse than she'd treat

total strangers. Making you feel angry and guilty and sad all at the same

time. Putting you dead

last on her list of responsibilities, putting you on the back seat of the

love department, acting less

like a parent and more like someone dealing with a pest that won't go away

and you can't help

feeling it's all your fault."

     He finally stopped and became aware of the others all staring at him.

"Hey," he said with a

shrug. "Why do you think the vampire me got a kick taking out his parents

even after he got his soul back?"

     Buffy shook her head. "I just can't believe something could do

something to the whole

town."

     "I know," Kendra remarked. "They go around every day like regular

people like you and I

and this happens."

     Buffy raised an eyebrow. "I was with you up until the 'regular people

like you and I'

thing."

     Larry had been silent throughout the meeting, sitting in a corner with

his arms crossed. He

became aware of Faith coming up next to him, the Boston Slayer wearing a

sympathetic expression.

"Hey. You ok?"

     Larry sighed, shaking his head. "It hurt. But I'll get over it. I'm

used to being the outcast."

     Faith put a hand on his shoulder. "Get unused to it, Larry. I've been

there, it ain't fun.

We're a team now and we need each other."

     Larry smirked. "So much for individual fun, huh?"

     Faith smirked back. "Well, if you want to get together later..."

     "Still gay."

     "Tease."

     "In all seriousness," Giles stated, "we need to find a way to defuse the

situation quickly."

     "Well, guess the Monty Python 'what floats on water' defense won't do

us much good here."

     Zev grimaced. "Harris, have I told you lately that you're not the least

bit amusing when you

joke like this?"

     "Never knock a good sense of humor, Zev."

     "I wouldn't have to if you had one."

     "Can we try to maintain a cool head here?" Giles stated.

     Jenny raised an eyebrow. "That's ironic coming from the man who almost

killed Ulric."

     "Yikes, punching a priest?" Xander whistled. "I don't think Artemis is

going to find it easy

to get you out of Hell to see Jenny in the afterlife, G-Man."

     "Frankly, Xander, I think Ulric might go there before I do,"

Giles snapped.

     "What did you say?!" Giles turned to see Shaw marching into the room.

The Harper's eyes

were alive with fire as she hauled back and threw a fist at Giles. On

reflex, he caught it as well a

the second blow she threw. Snarling, Shaw slammed a knee upward into his

gut, bending him

over. "If you EVER say a single word like that again, you will PAY FOR IT!"

she shrieked.

     Xander, Amy and Buffy had all moved together to pull Shaw away while

Jenny helped

Giles stagger to the couch. Everyone else simply stared in shock at the

crazed half-elf as Shaw

slipped into a series of curses in Elvish that had Steve, Willow, Amy and

Zev all cringing. "Amy,

Buffy, get her into the kitchen to settle down," Steve ordered and the two

blondes were quick to

obey.

     In the kitchen, they placed Shaw into a seat. She immediately buried

her head in her hands

and sobbed. Buffy looked to Amy. "Mind telling me what she said?"

     Amy sighed. "Well, she's pissed that Giles said that about Ulric after

she took his side

over Ulric's. And she picked us over him too."

     "I left my home, Buffy!" Shaw looked up, her angry face marked with

tears in her eyes. "I

left Ulric alone with whatever is influencing this and THIS is how Giles

repays me? I will not

allow it!"

     Buffy set her jaw and leaned in to face Shaw. "Shaw...I'm sorry for

that and I'm sorry for

what you've been through. But this is not the time to start fighting amongst

ourselves. We need

to pull together as much as possible here because if we don't, then we are

even more screwed

than we already are."

     Shaw shook her head. "I cannot...I just cannot..." She dissolved into

tears again as the

two blondes simply looked at each other sadly.

     "We'd better----"

     "We'll talk to her," Joyce said as she and Zev moved to the kitchen.

     "You two? Why?" Kendra asked.

     "Frankly, we need cooler heads."

     "Why your heads?"

     "Well, we need an adult influence and Giles and Jenny hardly fit that

bill now," Zev

remarked. "Can we do this, please?"

     "Please?" Buffy's jaw dropped. "Did...did you just say please?" She

waved a hand. "Go,

go, before I pass out from the shock!"

     Zev and Joyce did so, leaving the room and heading toward the kitchen.

Amy whirled

angrily on Giles. "How could you say that?"

     "I'm sorry," Giles sighed. "But I was in rather an angry mood..."

     "That's no excuse!" Amy snapped. "Goddess, Giles, she's on edge

already! She lost her

job, Jessica turned on her, she walked out on Ulric and now she has you

ripping on him like that,

you, someone she really respects!"

     "I know, I know, I overreacted," Giles sighed. "I'm sorry."

     "I'm not the one you should be saying that to..."

     Joyce sat next to Shaw at the table as Zev took a chair across from

them. The elder

woman draped a hand on Shaw's shoulders as the Harper softly wept.

"Shaw...I'm sorry. I really

am."

     "I'm sure Giles is as well," Zev said. "He didn't mean to hurt

you."

     Shaw wiped at her face with anger. "What he did..to Ulric...to strike

him like that.."

     "He was angry. From what I've gathered, underneath that stodgy British

exterior is a man

whose emotions are a ticking time bomb and every so often he has to explode.

It's usually better

if it's against a demon or something but you have to realize, Shaw, Ulric

not only struck Jenny, he

also insulted and demeaned her faith, as well as her love for

Giles. That, plus the

pressure of having the library shut down and everything else and we should

be glad he didn't kill

the man."

     "That does not excuse----"

     "Shaw, you're not the only one hurting here. The rest of the group is,

especially Willow.

Cordelia is feeling pressure from her father, Joyce from townspeople, we're

all feeling it. And

Giles is feeling it as well with the library being shut down."

     "That does not make it right to attack Ulric," Shaw snapped. "If he is

being influenced, he

is not responsible for it and Giles had no right to assault him."

     Zev sighed. "Shaw, if there's one thing I've found to be a universal

truth, it's that

emotions will beat out logic any day of the week. I'm sure Giles thought the

same thing but when

he heard about Jenny, he snapped." He shrugged. "An easy thing, I suppose.

After all, you did the

same thing." He glanced toward the Harper.

     "You cannot understand what this means, Zev," Shaw snapped.

     The alien was silent for a moment before speaking. "You know, Shaw,

there were months,

and I mean whole months, when I just wanted to give up. Just throw it all

away, forget about Roz

and what she was doing. I didn't want to live with the guilt, the pain, the

loneliness, any of it." He

leaned in. "But I got through it. I got through it all by myself. And let me

tell you, that's not the

way you want to do it. You have family here, Shaw, people who love you and

care for you.

People who want to help you. Don't try to do this alone. Not anymore."

     Shaw looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "How did you do it? How

did you get

through the pain?"

     "One day at a time," Zev answered. "I threw it all into one focus,

stopping Roz. In my

case, it was blood vengeance and I don't recommend that since it leaves you

cold and dead inside

and I do believe you've been through enough of that."

     Shaw nodded. "Yes, I have. And I have no wish to do so again." She

wiped at her face.

"So what do I do?"

     "You replace it with something else. The love of your family is a great

place to start.

Forget about Ulric right now and let your family help you. They love you."

     "I love them as well, Zev." Shaw shook her head. "But how do I forget

about Ulric? I

cannot just ignore what is happening to him."

     "You have to," Zev stressed. "You need to concentrate on whatever's

influencing them

and figure out a way to end what's happening. That's how you help Ulric." He

sighed. "Look...I

know this isn't Toril. The customs are different, you don't have this type

of problem there, not

surprising given the lack of technology and there aren't as many

religions..."

     He broke off as he saw Shaw staring at him and shrugged. "After meeting

you, I figured

downloading the entire Forgotten Realms line was required."

     "Strange. Xander did much the same."

     Zev winced. "All right, if I had known I was following in Harris'

footsteps..."

     Joyce picked this moment to interject herself. "Shaw, if anything,

Ulric needs help here.

The whole town does. Zev's right, this is a time to pull yourself up and

bond, not break apart.

You've handled worse than this."

     "Perhaps," Shaw said as she rose up. "Thank you both for your words.

I...I will try to

carry them to heart." She slowly walked back to the living room, leaving the

alien and mother

behind.

     "I just can't believe Shaw could come apart like that," Joyce wondered.

"She's always

been so strong."

     "There's an old saying from my world. What does not kill you makes you

stronger."

     "We have that saying here, Zev."

     "Yes, but I don't think you have the end bit: When you're stronger, it

means it's harder to

fix yourself when you do get hurt."

     "Zev..." Joyce paused, trying to find the words. "I...never really

realized what it was like

for you. Living with that all those years."

     Zev looked away. "It's not something I want to dwell on. Not anymore."

He sniffed.

"Finally stopping Roz has helped matters immensely. Besides, Steven's right.

I have to stop

dwelling on the past. I have to start looking toward a future of some sort."

     "But you keep it close," Joyce noted.

     Zev looked at her soberly. "Every day. It's been said that no one and

nothing truly dies

until every person who's known it dies as well." He made a mirthless smile.

"Just think of what

it's like to keep a whole world alive by one's self."

     "I think it's more important to keep yourself alive, Zev. You and your

soul...I think that's

more important. I think any of your people would agree with me."

     Zev's smile warmed toward her. "I can't imagine how it took you so long

to become the

den mother to this bunch."

     Joyce sighed as she rose up and headed toward the back door. "I need to

get out of here, get

home and try to relax. I don't think we're much needed here now."

     "I suppose not," Zev said as he followed her. "This appears to be more

of a...what did

Steve term it...Section affair."

     The night was cool and much easier than the atmosphere inside the house

as they headed

towards Joyce's car.  "I'm sorry about the shop," Zev stated.

     Joyce shrugged. "I've already rebuilt it, I can certainly reopen it. It

just bugs me that you

and I are the only ones not going ballistic here. I mean, I'm angry about

the children dying as well

but for two deaths to set this town against magic is just-----"

     She stopped as she realized Zev was no longer beside her. She and

Sherlock turned to see

him standing in place, his face tight as his mind raced. "Zev? What is it?"

     "Radilon's Ghost..." The Reudian whispered. "Of course....how could I

have missed it..."

     "Zev? Zev, you're worrying me," Joyce said, stepping forward carefully.

     Zev looked up at her, his eyes flaring with new purpose. "Get back to

your house,

Sherlock can keep an eye on you there. I have to check something out quick

but I'll be by as soon

as possible."

     Joyce shook her head. "What? What are you talking about? What am I

supposed to do?"

     "As incredibly unlikely as it sounds," Zev said as he strode off. "Pray

I'm wrong."

 

 

     The group looked up as Shaw entered. "Hey," Buffy softly asked. "You

ok?"

     Shaw nodded. "Yes. Zev helped give me clarity concerning my feelings."

     "I just don't get it," Xander said. "Usually, the guy acts more haughty

than Shaw and then

every now and then he does something that makes him seem more human than

most humans."

     "A shame it takes an alien to show us some human sensitivity," Giles

remarked. He looked to

Shaw. "Um...can we...?"

     Shaw nodded as she and Giles moved away toward a corner. The others

moved a bit away

to give them more room.

     Giles paused, trying to gather his thoughts. "I wanted to say I was

sorry. For what I said

and did earlier, it's not something I'm happy about."

     Shaw reached to place a hand on his shoulder. "Giles, I love you and

respect

you. And that is why it hurt for you to do that to Ulric." She lifted her

chin. "But it is also how I

can understand why you did what you did. I have been...holding in my

feelings all this time. The

fear, the anger, the pain of all that has happened has only just hit me

recently."

     Giles nodded. "I understand."

     "I am not sure you do." As Giles frowned, Shaw brushed her hair as she

spoke. "Giles, it

was not long ago that I gave my trust and respect to Roz, only to see her

rip me apart and play

me like a fool. That still hurts, despite all that the group has done to

help me get over it." She

closed her eyes as she felt tears well up in them. "And now a man I have

known longer and loved

greater has done the same..."

     Seeing the tears in her eyes, Giles placed his own hand on her

shoulder. "I do understand,

Shaw. We've all had betrayals, some greater than others." He looked down,

shame in his eyes. "It

took me a long time to get over Jenny lying to us about her true purpose in

Sunnydale. But I did

and we love each other all the more after it. I don't know what's going to

happen but I do hope

you and I will still be as close afterwards."

     "We will, Giles," Shaw whispered. "If you let me. When I attacked...I

was just so----"

     "I know anger, Shaw. And believe me when I tell you that I know maybe

better than most

here how easy it is to give in to it. Problem being...when you let it loose,

it's hard to rein it in."

     "I know." Shaw wiped at her face. "I am sorry for that."

     "As am I, Shaw. As am I."

     Shaw paused before speaking again. "Giles...how did you get over

conflicts with your

father?"

     "We talked about it." Seeing Shaw's doubtful look, Giles elaborated.

"Shaw, one thing you

are known for is being able to speak your mind without holding back." A tiny

smile came to his

face. "Which, no doubt, is what makes Zev and Faith so favorable to you.

Ulric is a simple man,

with simple tastes. It's part of the reason your relationship is so strong.

Talk to him. That's all

you have to do."

     Shaw nodded as she and Giles rejoined the others. They passed by Oz,

who nodded, then

suddenly frowned, his nose twitching. *Funny. Smells like...almonds?*

     "So...what is our progress?" Shaw asked.

     "We need to figure out what is..causing this.." Steve paused to cough a

few times.

     "Yeah...and how we.." Willow stopped, shaking her head. "Um...is it

me...or is it

getting...warm in here..?"

     The entire group was now blinking, rubbing heads and suddenly feeling

their bodies

weaken. Oz's head shot up toward the ceiling, his enhanced hearing catching

a telltale whistling

sound. "Oh, shit," he whispered. He tried to move toward the source but his

legs gave out under

him and he fell to the floor.

     Everyone could smell it now, the bitter stench that carried with the

clouds of vapor now

flowing into the room. They tried to move but the fumes were too much. Most

of them were

unconscious in moments. Shaw lasted a bit longer but she too fell. Finally,

Buffy, Steve and Randi

joined them as the entire team was laid out in limp forms around the room.

     There was silence, then the front door burst open as a slew of figures

wearing gas masks

stepped inside. In the lead were a tall woman and a man in dark robes. They

watched as the others

began to haul the unconscious Scoobies away.

     "Thank you for your help, Ulric."

     "Simply doing the Lord's work, Sheila."

     "Well, we'd better get going, they're getting ready at the library."

     "It's for their own good."

     "And for the children."

     "Of course. The children."

 

 

Sunnydale City Morgue

1619 Hours PST

     It was a lot easier to break into the morgue than Zev had thought.

Given the amount of

corpses who later managed to walk out, that shouldn't have been too

surprising. It almost meant

he had more leeway to do what had to be done.

     Checking a chart, he made his way to two locked coolers and opened them

up. He pulled

out the slabs and rolled back the sheets, looking down at the bodies of the

two children that had

started all this.

     He looked each of them over, then raised his arms. He popped out two

spikes on each arm

and swung them down. The spikes slammed into their chests and he pulled

hard. There was a

tearing sound as each body was gouged open. Retracting the spikes, Zev

stepped away. He

looked down at the bodies carefully.

     There was a moment of silence. Then each body suddenly began to

disintegrate, like an

inflatable doll with a tear in it. They melted down, crumbling and turning

into two piles of

shapeless goo.

     Zev closed his eyes. "Grozik. I was right." He looked skyward and

spread his arms.

"That's my curse. I'm always right."

 

 

Chronicles of Wanderer

Curses & Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

 

Part six: In which revelations are made.

 

 

Joyce Summer's House

Sunnydale, CA

June 19th, 1999

1713 Hours PST

 

 

     The pounding at the door roused Joyce from her nap. She got up from the

couch and moved

to the door. Opening it, she was startled to see Zev pushing his way inside.

"We've got trouble,"

he said without any preamble.

     "In this town, that's an understatement," Joyce muttered

as she shut the door. Zev strode into the dining room and laid down what

appeared to

be a laptop

computer. He flipped open the screen and started to type. "I know what's

going on," he

announced. "And it's not good."

     Joyce moved to join him. "What do you mean?" She watched as Zev worked

on the computer and sighed.  "What are you waiting for, dramatic background

music? Out with

it!"

     "I broke into the morgue and checked out the bodies."

     Joyce's eyes widened in shock. "You examined the bodies of children?!"

     Zev shook his head. "I examined two bodies. But they weren't children."

     Joyce stared at him. "What do you mean?"

     "I've discovered the creature behind this charade."

     Joyce frowned. "But didn't the others already check for demonic

influences?"

     "Yes...but they didn't check for Cortan."

     Joyce furrowed her brow. "Who?"

     "More like what," Zev answered. He tapped a few more keys on his

computer and then looked

up at Joyce. "You might want to steel yourself. This could be a bit

difficult the first time."

     Joyce was starting to feel nervous. "What could?"

     Zev pressed one key and a bright flash seemed to emit from the

computer. Joyce suddenly felt

like she was in an elevator rocketing at high speeds up a skyscraper. She

closed her eyes as she

felt suddenly dizzy. When she opened them, her jaw dropped wide open.

     She was surrounded on all sides by a seemingly endless wall of screens.

They floated all

around her, showing what looked to be every television station on the

planet, with a slew of

documentaries and high-tech computer imagery showing as well. Joyce craned

her head upward

and saw the column of screens extending as far as she could see. She looked

down and yelped as

she saw nothing but air beneath her bare feet with even more screens flowing

down

into infinity. She

looked up at Zev and stammered. "Wha...what...what is this?!"

     "My people's version of a laptop," Zev stated. "Our bodies are still in

your dining room,

protected by a force field capable of withstanding a Force 10 plasma blast

and immune to the old

'slide something in slowly' trick. Our minds are inside an advanced

information repository that is

hooked into every database and information center on this planet. It's how I

learned your language

and customs when I first landed here."

     Joyce shook her head. "Wait...we're not...actually here?"

     "No, just a mental manifestation of your being," Zev stated. "You're

not actually breathing

oxygen either." He paused and gave her a smile. "It's probably best not to

think about it."

     Joyce was trying to get used to this, her eyes taking in all the

screens. "So...you're connected

to...everything?"

     "If I want to be," Zev said. He reached out to touch a screen, showing

off what looked like a

map of Iran. "Care to shut down the entire Iranian armed forces?" He turned

to touch another

screen. "How about reroute every flight heading into South Korea?" He paused to

touch another,

pressing his fingers on it in a pattern. "There we are."

     "What did you do?" Joyce asked.

     "Removed a few million from the private account of a supposedly

reputable Senator and

donated it to the Red Cross." Zev moved past Joyce. "What do you think so

far?"

     "I think Steve's going to be jealous as hell and Willow and Jenny are

going to become your love slaves if you let them anywhere near this...thing,"

Joyce

answered. "But what have you found out about what's going on?"

     Zev moved forward and tapped one screen. It filled with data, streams

of words in a

language Joyce didn't recognize. "Its name is Cortan," Zev stated. "Part of

an alien race that

thankfully don't number that highly. They enjoy causing chaos simply for the

sake of chaos."

     "Like Roz?" Joyce asked.

     Zev shook his head. "No. They prefer to watch beings tear themselves

apart. They've been

to your planet before. You may have heard of them." He tapped the screen and

an image of a

book appeared. A book Joyce recognized.

     "Hansel and Gretel?" She stared at him in disbelief. "Zev, that's a

fairy tale! They don't actually

exist!"

     Zev held up a hand and looked around. "Damn, if that didn't bring Robin

here, nothing would.

We're on our own."

     Joyce was still doubtful. "Zev, we are talking about a fairy tale."

     "Joyce, the Greek Gods are supposed to by fairy tales. I'm an alien and

I'm not going to get

into the litany of your daughter and company. Is it that much of a stretch

to believe that fairy

tales are based on reality?"

     "Point taken," Joyce admitted.

     "And despite what Walt Disney would have you believe, the old fairy

tales weren't sugar and

spice and everything nice. This one, in particular has the modus operandi of

Cortan.

It has very powerful

telepathic abilities which can be spread over a wide area. It first

replicates two children and places

them in a scenario of some danger."

     Understanding washed over Joyce. "Like two children saying that an evil

witch tried to eat

them alive..."

     "Thus sending a mob to kill a harmless old woman," Zev said. "Like I

said, this thing has a

warped sense of humor. It also has the ability to effect the thinking of an

entire town to turn on

itself."

     "So...so this..alien...creates the bodies of two dead children, then

uses that to effect the entire

town?"

     Zev nodded. "Yes. It usually has the people turning toward the nearest

scapegoat. And in this

town that means magic."

     Joyce frowned. "But we found the bodies. Why weren't we affected?"

     "Well, I'm an alien, my brain patterns are different," Zev pointed out.

"As for you, you have

protection spells about you."

     "So does Ulric, it hasn't stopped him from turning into Pat Buchanan's

pastor."

     "Yes, but you have more due to the magicks of the witches and Shaw," Zev

related. "That must

mix up the signal enough for them not to affect you. Plus, as a priest,

Ulric would be more likely

to go into an anti-magic line than the others."

     Joyce was trying to process all this. "Is this the only time that

thing's been here?"

     "Actually, there is another example." Zev called up another screen. "In

1587, the entire

population of the colony of Roanoke, Virginia, vanished virtually overnight.

Men, women,

children, all gone without a trace. Except one. A single word carved onto a

tree." He pointed to

the image as Joyce stared at it.

     "Croaton," she whispered.

     "Misspelled but undoubtedly the last survivor either left a warning

or tried to name his

killers. Sadly, they wiped out all other evidence."

     "Oh, God," Joyce said. "Is that what they plan to do to us?"

     "Well, the good news is, this thing has this down to a science. You can

practically set a clock

to its plan."

     Joyce swallowed. "What's the bad news?"

     "Right now, their clock is saying that the townspeople are ready to

take out what they feel are

the major resistors to their campaign and therefore the logical suspects."

     Joyce's mouth went dry. "You mean..."

     Zev grimly nodded. "Sometime in the next few hours, your daughter and

her friends are going

to be executed by a mob eager to avenge a murder that never happened of two

children that never

existed."

     Joyce stared at him in disbelief. "Sheila isn't going to kill her own

daughter..."

     "Joyce, with the telepathic barrage she's getting, she wouldn't think

twice about locking

her entire family in a gas chamber." He crossed his arms. "A little side

effect is that the ones

closest to the persecuted are the ones who want to tear them apart the

most."

     As Joyce absorbed his words, Zev reached over to touch a screen. There

was a flash and Joyce

found herself back in her dining room. She shook her head, trying to get her

bearings back. "Oh,

God," she moaned. "I have to call Sheila, I have to tell her..."

     "Tell her what, Joyce?" Zev snapped. "That an alien who was the basis

for a fairy tale is

making her do this? Even if she was in the mood for that, and she's not,

it's gone too far, Joyce.

Trust me when I say that at this point, rational thinking has gone out the

window."

     "Shit," Joyce cursed as she picked up the phone and hurriedly dialed

Steve's number. She

paused for a few moments, her face falling further. "No answer," she stated.

     Zev was already halfway to the door. "Get your keys."

 

 

     "I meant to tell you, Lady, your daughter has been a great help to my

son with coping

with life on Earth," Jurden stated.

     Millie smiled. "She has that effect on people."

     Jurden sighed. "However, he still has that sadness

around him, no matter what happens. It's always there and it hurts."

     "He does have his scars," Robin stated. "Maybe you should talk to him."

     Jurden was taken aback. "I can't do that?"

     "Why not?" Liam asked.

     "A God can't just show up and talk to his believers!"

     Artemis, Millie and Zeus all stared at him. The alien deity let out a

long sigh. "Peer

pressure..."

 

 

     "It's disturbing that I made the same mistake everyone else did," Zev

remarked. He and

Joyce were in her car, driving quickly toward Steve's house. Sherlock was in

the back, picking up

on Joyce's worry.

     Joyce glanced at him from the driver's seat. "What?"

     "I was so taken aback at the deaths that I failed to check and see if

there was any record

of them existing," Zev elaborated. "Did no one think it odd that no parents

came to find them?

That they seemed to have no identities whatsoever?"

     "Wouldn't this telepathic thing make them miss that?"

     "Yes, it would," Zev remarked. "But I'm not human so I should have been

more on top of

things."

     Joyce was quiet. "God, I can't believe this. I can't believe people can

be like this."

     "Maybe it's the demonic influence," Zev stated. "Demons ruled this

planet for centuries

before humanity came along. An influence like that can't just completely

vanish. Some traces of it

must have remained to taint people. That may explain quite a bit about your

history."

     Joyce glared at him. "Is that an insult?"

     Zev sighed. "I hate to slip into my 'haughty alien from a superior culture'

act again, but face it,

Joyce, your species has a horrendous history of thinking the worst of one

another. The

Inquisitions,

the Salem Witch Trials, the Dark Ages. You think Hitler would have gotten as

far as he did if the

German people weren't willing to blame someone for their problems? Surton,

your own country

did the exact same thing with the Japanese internment camps and

McCarthyism. Today,

you have groups claiming everything from Jewish power conspiracies to

homosexuals should be

eradicated. Your race just needs a little nudge to get going and then

they're off."

     Joyce shook her head. "That's a little simplistic-----"

     "Joyce, what's happening here is really not that different from a

student accusing a teacher

of sexual misconduct just to get back at him for a failing grade. A bit more

extreme, I'll grant you, but

the principle is the same." Zev let out a long breath. "Sometimes I'm afraid

I'll never understand

humans. And sometimes, I'm afraid I will."

     /Join the club, buddy./

     Joyce shrugged as she pulled into Steve's driveway. She opened the door

and paused. "Oh

no," she whispered. Zev followed her gaze and saw the front door partially

open. Faster than

Joyce could see, he burst into the house and stormed from room to room.

     Joyce and Sherlock were soon behind him, looking around the empty home.

Joyce wrinkled

her nose. "What is that smell? Did Cordelia drop a perfume bottle?"

     "Only if they've started marketing Eau Du Chloroform," Zev snapped.

     Joyce frowned. "They just walked in and gassed them? I don't think so,

there are

protective spells-----"

     Zev looked up at the vents. "Hmmm...If one person attached an extension

hose to the

outside conditioner, they could have pumped it in here." He rolled his eyes.

"Wonderful, the one

time this town uses good judgement and it's to kill the people that defend

it. I hate irony."

     Joyce shook her head. "Now wait, this place has so many spells to

protect it, how could

they possibly be able to get close enough to do anything?"

     "They could...if they had help from someone who could get past said

spells..."

     Joyce stared as the connection was made. "Not Ulric."

     "Why not?"

     "He...he's a good man."

     "I'm sure so was the priest who lit up Joan of Arc," Zev snapped.

     /Hey!/ Sherlock's voice cut in. /We've got another problem!/

     Joyce and Zev quickly rushed to join the dog in the kitchen. They all

stared at the

Guardians, who were laid out along the kitchen floor. "Oh, damn," Joyce

whispered as Zev knelt

down to examine them.

     "Looks like a standard tranquilizer," Zev stated. "Probably keeps them

out for the

majority of the night. Just long enough."

     "Long enough for what?" Joyce asked, dreading the answer.

     Zev looked up. "How long do these animals live?"

     /Well, we're bonded to our owners/ Sherlock answered. /So, we live as

long as they do./

     "And if they drop dead in the next hour or so?"

     A long silence followed Zev's question. /Oh, shit./

     Zev nodded. "Two birds with one stone. Bastard covers all the bases."

He rose up.

"Sherlock, you stay here and watch over them. Joyce, come on."

     "Where are we going?" Joyce asked as she followed.

     "To do the only thing we can do," the alien stated. "We save the

groziking day."

 

 

Chronicles of the Wanderer

Curses & Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

 

Part seven: In which truths are exposed and a realization found.

 

 

Sunnydale High School

June 19th, 1999

1803 Hours PST

 

 

     Amy slowly opened her eyes and winced as she tried to recover her bearings. She tried to

move but realized she couldn't, her arms were tied tightly to a pole. She looked

about, realizing where

she was and shook her head. "Oh, this is getting monotonous."

     The rest of the Scoobies were already awake, all tied to large stakes

in the middle of the

library. At their feet laid a rather sizeable pile of wood, paper and books.

Before them, people packed the library, a few of whom were pouring gasoline onto the

branches. Some carried

torches as they all glared at the team. At the front of the crowd was Ulric,

a Bible in his hands

with Sheila next to him with a torch.

     "Oh, this is so not good," Cordelia said with her usual grasp of the

situation.

     Buffy tensed against her bonds, which were chain instead of rope.

"Okay...this is taking

the whole 'witch hunt' theme way too far."

     Steve's eyes met with Bob's and Carol's and he felt a chill at the coldness

of their gazes.

"Bob, Carol...let us go. Now."

     Bob shook his head. "Sorry, Steve. But we need to handle this as soon

as possible. It's the

only way to protect the children."

     Randi shook her head. "I don't exactly see how committing multiple

murder is going to do

anything for the kids."

     "Try harder, sis." Randi blinked in amazement as she saw Brian

make his way forward. He crossed his arms and shook his head. "Man, Randi...Joan must be so

disappointed in you

right now."

     "Brian, what the hell are you doing?!" Randi hissed.

     Brian shrugged. "Well, I'm a kid...I think that gives me a say over how

I choose to be

protected. And frankly, I think it can be done perfectly well without all the

magic shit."

     "I'm your sister!"

     "No, you're not," Brian shot back. "And I thank God for that."

     Ulric stepped forward as Randi just stared in shock. "I am sorry for

you all," he stated, his

face solemn. "But you brought this on yourselves. If you cannot accept your

proper role...then you

are obviously in league with the forces of evil."

        “And killing us Is the answer?” Jenny demanded.

        “If it must be, yes,” Ulric said. “Such is the penalty for those who would deviate from God’s will.”

        “You hear that, Kendra? We’re deviants!”

        “Faith, you are not helping.”

     "Ulric," Shaw stated. "You cannot do this!"

     "Silence, Satan spawn!" Ulric snapped. "I know what you are and I

intend to send you back to

Hell!" He brought out a statue of Millie, holding it up. "Thou shalt have no

idols of false gods."

He threw it onto the pile at Shaw's feet.

     "Great, now he's channeling Corday," Cordelia muttered.

     "Shut up, Cordy!" Xander hissed.

     Cordelia looked at her boyfriend in shock. "Xander..what?"

     "Look at Shaw."

     Cordelia did and felt a stab of pain at the tears running down Shaw's cheeks.

"The man she loves like a

father is destroying an image of her goddess," Xander pointed out. "Even I'm

not going there."

     Ulric reached out and took a torch from Bob. "I commend your souls to

the afterlife. May

God have mercy on them."

     Bob suddenly grabbed his arm. "Ah, you know that they're going to be

awake for this."

     Ulric looked at him. "What's your point?"

     "No point, just an observation."

     Buffy, Faith and Kendra strained mightily against their chains. The sounds

of metal being pushed to the brink could clearly be heard and several in the crowd now wore

wary expressions.

Buffy saw them and felt a sudden chill. Suddenly, she realized just how

easily people could be

frightened by the Slayers' powers.

     Giles snarled as he tensed against his own ropes, his face

contorted in anger. "I should have killed you when I had the chance, you bloody pillock" he

barked at Ulric, the Ripper clearly on his features.

     Ulric simply stared back at him with disdain. "For striking that whore?"

     "For trying to harm my Slayers," Giles hissed. "No one does that and lives."

     "Funny, I think we've put that theory to rest, don't you?" Ulric dryly

stated.

     Amy snarled as she tensed up. "Okay...okay...that's it...I am soooo

ready to let go and-----

" She let out a scream as a rock flew and smacked against the side of her head. Amy

gasped, her head

ringing, her concentration disrupted by the pain. She blinked as she tried

to gather her wits, her

eyes falling on Ulric, who hefted another rock in his hands. The priest then glared directly at

Willow. "Don't make me use this as well, Hebrew," he snapped. With that, he

hefted the torch and threw it onto the waiting pile.

     Instantly, flames began to lick forward, quickly spreading about to the

entire bonfire and creating a thick screen of smoke. "Ah, shit," Xander remarked. "Um...any

ideas?"

     Willow looked over at her mother. "Mom! Please, you've got to listen to me!"

     "I've tried, honey," Sheila cooed, apparently failing to notice the

irony of that statement. "I won't let you stop me. It's for the good of the children, Willow. You'll

understand very soon."

     Shaw closed her eyes and recited a statement in Elvish. "What did you

do?" Cordelia

asked.

     "I cast a fire resistance spell on myself," the Harper answered.

     "Uh, Shaw?" Larry called out. "You do know it's polite to share?"

     "The spell only works through physical contact."

     "Oh, great."

     Jenny swallowed as she saw the flames coming closer. "Don't you have

something that'll

help us as well?"

     "Well, yes, but..."

     "DO IT!" Everyone yelled.

     Shaw shrugged and began to pray. A flash of ozone and light filled the

air above their

heads. Suddenly, a cloudburst poured torrential rain down on the group.

"SHAW!" everyone

yelled as they were drenched. The mob simply stared at the rain that fell on

only the Scoobies.

     Two minutes after it had begun, the storm ended. "It only lasts for two

minutes," Shaw explained.

     Randi sighed. "At least the stuff's wet, they can't light it up

again."

     A dozen figures bearing cans of gasoline marched up and started dousing

the wet fuel

once more.

     "Me and my big mouth," Randi noted with a groan.

     "Shaw, what else you've got?" Steve demanded

     Shaw closed her eyes and used her strength to call upon one more prayer.

There was a burst of sparks and suddenly fire swept up once more.

     "Oh, great," Cordelia moaned. "Shaw's in a hissy and she's taking us

with her!"

     "If everyone would just start screaming," Shaw said in a soft voice.

"The crowd might disperse and we may have a chance to free ourselves."

     "Oh, sure!" Faith snapped. "You save the nutjobs the work by starting

the fire yourself

and you think that's gonna help us!"

     "How much pain are you in?"

     "I'm burning at the stake, how much..." Faith stopped suddenly as she

realized she wasn't

feeling any heat. "Wait a minute..."

     "Of course," Amy managed to groan. "Faerie fire."

     Everyone immediately understood and in moments the library was filled

with wails and

howls of supposed pain. The crowd watched as the flames rose while Bob

stretched a hand toward them.

He frowned and then pushed his hand into the seeming fire. "Hey! This isn't

giving off any heat!

It's not even real!"

     "Oh, great, the ONE time someone in this town uses their eyeballs..."

     "SHUT UP, XANDER!!"

 

 

     Zev and Joyce slowly peeked their heads over the small shelf to take in

the scene. Joyce

peered her eyes at the rear of the crowd where two figures stood. "The

children themselves are

right there and no one sees anything wrong with that?"

     "All part of the mental barrage," Zev said. He looked at the crowd and

shook his head.

"Torches and pitchforks. That's what I love about your species. You're

traditionalists at heart."

     Joyce looked at him. "Could there be any danger to severing the

telepathy thing?"

     "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it."

     Joyce bit her lip. "How do we free the others?"

     "If I had a gun, I could shoot the ropes off."

     "Are you that good a shot?"

     "I'd aim for Harris. There's nothing vital on him to hit."

     "I think Cordelia would disagree. And I can't believe I just said

that."

     "Nice to know I'm not alone in how these people rub off on you."

     "So is this going to be a hands-on approach?"

     "In a way. Harris would no doubt call it 'arms-on.'"

     Joyce chuckled. "Going against a mob, fighting an alien creature,

rescuing my daughter. Well,

Zev, you sure know how to show a gal a good time!"

     Zev ignored the comment as he straightened up. "All right. Here's the

plan. I'll go around

while you distract the crowd."

     Joyce blinked at him as he moved away. "What am I supposed to do?"

     Zev turned and gave her a thumbs-up. He then turned back and walked

away.

     "What? What was that? What the hell was that?"

 

 

     "Well, this was a rather enjoyable evening," Jurden stated. He looked

up to see everyone

else glaring at him. "What is it?"

     "You've played this game before, haven't you?" Oberon accused.

     Jurden raised an eyebrow as his arms wrapped around the two foot high

pile of chips in

front of him. "What makes you say that?"

     Oberon rolled his eyes. "If his worshiper is like him, than you're

welcome to him,

Goodfellow." He brushed at his robes as he rose up. "If you will excuse me,

I have a kingdom to

return to."

     "Old Tita cracking the whip again?" Romino asked with a smile.

     Oberon just glared at him as he vanished. Fin Varra and McAllister

exchanged knowing

smiles as they followed him along.

     "Well, thank you for a very profitable evening," Jurden said as he

collected his winnings.

"I do believe it may bode well for the future." In a flash of silver, he

teleported away.

     "Liam, may I speak to you?" Millie called out.

     "We'll be outside," Romino and Robin said before vanishing.

     "Traitors," Liam muttered.

     "They know me, Danahure," Millie pointed out with a smile.

     "Of course they do. Robbie's the only one who can help you get Arty to

loosen up and

you and Ronnie were an item 2750 years ago..." He shook his head. "Okay,

let's not go there."

     "I don't mind, we parted on good terms." She cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Unlike some

other people I could mention."

     "Rub it in, lassie. But we're driftin' from the subject."

     "Very well, I'll come straight to the point." She crossed her arms.

"Are your intentions

toward my daughter honorable?"

     Liam acted thoughtful. "Honest, fiery, lustful, loving but honorable's

a stretch."

     Millie laughed in true humor. "At least you're honest, Liam. That's

never changed. Thank

you."

     "You're wel-----" Liam's voice broke off as Millie grabbed him by the

throat and yanked

him in close. The smile was still on her face but her eyes burned with cold

fire. "If you ever wrong

her, I have your fate already planned out. And it's more horrible than you

can imagine." The smile

grew. "I'll let her big brother have you." She released Liam and smiled.

"Have a nice day." She

then vanished.

     Liam sat up, rubbing his throat. *And I thought Robbie was a bad

influence on *Shaw!**

 

 

      The real flames began to lick higher as the Scoobies choked on the

growing smoke. There

was a blast of foam as fire extinguisher liquid struck the flames. The

entire crowd reacted as Joyce

moved in, emptying the canister as much as she could. She then threw it

aside and turned to the

crowd. "What in HELL is wrong with you people?!"

     "Ooooooh, are you gonna get it..." Buffy said in a mocking tone.

     "Joyce, how did you get here?" Kendra asked.

     "Back door."

     "This place doesn't have a back door," Giles pointed out.

     "It does now."

     Ulric moved forward. "Joyce, if you are not going to help us, then

leave."

     "I'm not going to let you do this, Ulric," Joyce snapped.

"Look at you! The Middle

Ages were more civilized than you people are acting right now!"

     "Well, they had the best ideas," Carol stated.

     Joyce looked at Sheila and pointed in Willow's direction. "Sheila, this is your daughter! You

raised her, you love her, you can't

just kill her!"

     "It's for her own good."

     "We have to do this," Ulric said.

     "He's right," came a voice from the back of the crowd. Everyone turned

to see the two

children there, the boy continuing. "You must kill them."

     "Yes," the girl added. "Kill the evil."

     Ulric nodded to Joyce. "You heard them."

     Joyce threw up her arms. "Ulric, DEAD PEOPLE are talking to you! Am I

the only one here

who sees how wrong that is?"

     "They are the spirits of the children, here to lead us to judgement."

     "Man, I knew that angel thing was gonna bite us in the ass someday..."

     "Shut up, Xander!"

     Joyce crossed her arms and stood her ground. "You've got a choice. You

can let them go or

you can add me to the pile. Because the only way you're getting to them is

over my dead body."

     Sheila nodded and then looked behind her. "Okay, you heard her."

     Immediately, Joyce found herself looking down the barrels of a dozen

guns and swallowed.

"Ok, this wasn't in the plan," she murmured to herself.

     Behind the crowd, the boy grinned wildly. "This is even better than we

had hoped," he said.

     "It is indeed," the girl agreed. "And the best is yet to come."

     "Oh, how right you are." The sound of metal being unsheathed reverberated through the air as

the two

children spun around to find Zev standing before them, his spikes out and his

face in a tight smile.

"Guess what? It's not going to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood."

     He lunged forward, spikes racing toward the "children's" faces. As one,

they leapt back

and collided. Instead of bouncing away, however, they seemed to melt into

one another. They let

out a loud howl that attracted the attention of everyone. The entire group

stared in amazement as

the two beings merged together, their bodies growing into another form.

     Zev stepped back to watch, a smile on his face. *Doesn't matter where

they come from.

Stupidity in monsters is a universal constant.* He watched as the "children"

continued their

transformation into a new body.

     It was nearly fifteen feet tall, slightly hunched, its head large and

pointed with rows of

jagged teeth. Its skin was a sickly grey, seeming to be almost rotting in

places, its powerful arms

ending in large claws. Its feet were clawed, knees bent as it snarled at

Zev. The alien simply raised

an eyebrow and murmured under his breath. "There's a saying about the Yujuta

I think can apply

to you." He looked the creature over and shook his head. "You are one ugly

mother-fucker."

     Every human stared in shock at the alien creature. Ulric looked at it,

then at the group,

still tied to stakes. "Dear God, what have I done?" he whispered.

     Cortan spun its wide head around and snarled. "Kill them! Kill the

evil!"

     "Sorry, old boy," Zev stated. "It just doesn't have the same effect

once they see you for what

you really are."

     The creature turned back and lunged at him. Zev rolled forward,

avoiding the slicing claws

and reached under his coat. He got to his feet, a long object in his hands.

The monster reached

out for him and then yelled in pain as it felt a slicing pain across its

palm. It backed away and

stared at what had cut him.

     Zev stood before him, Vandor in his hands. The blade shone under the

lights and the last

remnants of flame as Zev held it up. His mind raced to the words he'd been

taught so long ago...

 

     Let this blade be my shield

     Let its bearer never yield.

 

     Zev swung it out, a flash of color showing as he cut Cortan across the

mid-section. The

alien had backed away as much as it could so it was only a glancing blow.

Zev spun around to

thrust out the sword but with surprising speed, Cortan dodged it.

     "A Reudian," the alien hissed. "It has been a long while since we

killed a Reudian."

     Zev snorted. "Don't lie...as if one of my people would fall for

your tricks."

     The alien backed up, eyes on the sword. "We can use that after your

death."

     "You'd just use it for meaningless carnage."

     "And what do you intend to use it for?"

     "Meaningful carnage."

     Cortan chuckled and then lashed out with one foot. Unprepared for the odd

blow (the alien

hardly looked like a kicker), Zev was knocked onto his back, wincing in

pain. He looked up to see

the foot coming down and just managed to roll out of the way before it

smashed onto the floor.

He got to his feet in time to see a fist coming at him. He barely managed to

roll in time and the

spiky flesh tore a cut on his face.

 

     In honor let it be worn.

     Till death be it not scorned.

 

     Cortan snarled and lunged forward, knocking Zev back. He rolled back

onto his feet and

thrust out the sword while pushing a small button on the hilt. The blade

suddenly broke into

segments, linked together by a chain. What was a simple sword was now a

whip-like weapon that

Zev hurled at Cortan. The creature screamed as the blades slid across its

back, then legs. It sliced

its hand forward but Zev flipped over the incoming claw, landing on his feet

and slamming the

whip along the alien's wrist. With a snarl, Cortan lunged forward and

smashed the back of its fist

into Zev, sending him flying back, landing near the pile of books.

     "Having fun softening it up?" Buffy called out.

    "It's not that easy fighting an alien from another planet!" Zev snapped

as he brought himself up.

     "A what from where?!" Buffy yelled.

     "Don't ask," Joyce said as she undid the bonds. "He's getting as bad as

Robin and Liam

with explanations."

     "That's scary."

     Steve was free by now and moved to help the Reudian, but Zev held up a hand. "No. This

one's mine." He hefted his sword. "This is non-Terran business."

     He moved in but the brief distraction was enough for Cortan to smash a

blow into his chest.

Zev flew across the library, smashed through a bookcase, and landed

in a heap. He choked, feeling blood on his lips and closed his eyes. *No more.*

     He bounced up onto his feet, his face contorted in rage. Any semblance of

the controlled and haughty

gentleman was gone. In its place was a pure warrior with righteous anger on

his side, a rage that even the Ripper and the Hunter would be hard-pressed to match. He charged

forward, his blade held up, letting out a yell as he thrust the sword in an

arc that sliced off one of

Cortan's fingers.

 

     Let it be a weapon for right

     Let it perform with all its might

 

     Zev ducked a swinging claw to slash his spikes along the upper thigh of

Cortan. The creature

hunched over and Zev took advantage to leap onto the alien's back. He let

the whip blade swing

down twice, each blow resulting in a loud shriek from Cortan. The alien

swung its body around

but Zev held on tight, burying two spikes into the alien's shoulder blades

for support.

 

     Let it be used for justice for all

     Before it shall all evil fall

 

     Zev raised Vandor and thumbed the switch. The blade solidified back

into a hard edge as

Zev lifted it up. "This...is for Roanoke, Virginia."

     "Who?" Cortan gasped.

     "You don't even remember," Zev sneered as he held his blade high. "Let

them remind

you."

 

     For those who are Royal Born

     May Vandor be thy Sword

 

     Zev stabbed the blade downward, the point pushed right above the base

of the neck. Cortan let

out a massive shriek as Zev twisted the blade to drive it home. The creature

collapsed as Zev

pulled the sword out and then brought it back down for another blow.

     "Hey," Faith said as she was set free by Joyce. "Is it me or is he

looking red?"

     "He does seem angry," Kendra noted.

     "No, I mean, red." Faith pointed and everyone could see that indeed

Zev's skin had turned a

bright crimson. The alien continued to slam Vandor into Cortan time and

time again. The

creature's cries grew more infrequent as the blows took their

toll. Zev hoisted the

blade high over his head and brought it down for a final blow. The

razor-sharp edge struck Cortan

right along the cranium, neatly cleaving off part of its skull. The monster

gave one last rasp, a

final twitch and then lay still. Zev stepped back, breathing heavily as his

spikes retracted.

     "You okay?" Faith asked. "You're still a little red."

     "Oh, sorry," Zev said as his skin regained its normal color.

"Pigmentation control often goes

awry when I'm emotional."

     "Wow. We mean that much to you?"

     "Well, no, not really. I just can't stand it when someone talks about oneself in the third

person." He paused and rubbed  the blood on his face.

     "Oh, God, we'd better get something for that," Joyce said

     Zev shook his head. "No, it's all right. I'm not in your daughter's

class but I'm a fast

healer, remember?"

    "Um, Zev?" Steve carefully asked. "Are you...all right?"

     "Perfectly," Zev rasped. "I know why I'm here now."

     Steve blinked in confusion. "What?"

     Zev slowly turned his head toward the Immortal. "There are things in

this universe worse than

this creature. Things you don't know of. Things you can't imagine, things

that make the demons

you fight look like the children Cortan impersonated. There are dangers you

need to know of.

Dangers only I can reveal. That's why I'm here."

      "You know, this was refreshing," Xander declared. "It's really good to

finally face something

that doesn't want to destroy the world, just cause some local mayhem."

     Zev regarded him carefully. "You worry me the most, Harris, you truly

do."

     By this point, almost everyone had fled the library in the face of the

battle. Everyone except

Ulric. The priest stood there, frozen, his mouth agape with horror and

shame that only grew as he

took in the group.

     "I...I'm so..I'm..." Ulric broke and ran away. Shaw moved to join him

but Zev grabbed her arm.

"No...let him go, Shaw...he needs to deal with this himself."

     There was a flash of light and Robin and Liam arrived. The two paused

and looked down

at the corpse of Cortan they were standing on. They looked at each other,

then at the group, then

at each other.

     "So..." Robin began. "Did we miss anything?"

     Steve stared at him in disbelief. "Did you miss anything? Did you miss

anything?! Did you

two go up to Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford's Theater and say 'hi, sorry we're

late, did we miss

anything?!"

     Robin and Liam exchanged looks and turned to Steve. "How'd you know?"

They asked in

surprise.

     Steve closed his eyes. "I hate these two," he murmured.

     Liam looked down at the alien body. "Damn. You must have had a grand

old party here."

     "Actually, it was all Zev," Larry explained.

     "You beat that thing yourself?" Liam asked with surprise.

     "Old monster fighting tactic," Zev replied. "Pure spirit and a lot of

brains will always win

the day." He paused and shrugged. "Of course, 16 arm spikes, a special sword

and a lot of hitting

goes a long way as well."

     Joyce brushed at her hair. "The more I get involved in these

adventures, the more I realize

how crazy this world is."

     "As I've been saying since I got here," Zev stated.

     "Well," Robin remarked. "I do believe we have something of a story

here."

     The entire group exchanged weary glances. "Sometimes I just wish I

didn't know what was

going on in this town," Joyce sighed.

 

 

 

 

Chronicles of Wanderer

Curses & Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

 

Part eight: In which visits from above are made.

 

 

Zev Mundac's home

June 19th, 1999

1956 Hours PST

 

 

     Zev brushed his wet hair as he entered the living room. He had just

finished a shower, a

necessity given what he'd been through a few hours earlier. He walked toward

the couch, clad in

slippers and a dark robe. He paused in mild surprise as he saw a bottle and

champagne glass on

the table. With mild curiosity, he undid the cork and poured himself a

glass. He took a long sip

and his eyes lit up as he recognized the brand. "Malorn whiskey," he

muttered to himself as he sat

on the couch. "Oh, I needed this, thank Jurden."

     "You're welcome."

     Zev froze with the glass near his lips. He slowly turned around to see

the figure standing

before him with a smile on his face. The glass shattered on the floor as

Zev's hand went limp. He

rose to his feet, his jaw dropping open as he realized just who it was

before him. "My Lord," he

whispered. He bowed his head and placed his palms together. He lifted them

to his forehead, then

to his heart, then held them up towards Jurden.

     "At ease, Zev," Jurden stated. "No need to stand on ceremony just

because you're my sole

worshiper."

     "How...how can...I don't..." Zev couldn't remember the last time he had

been at such a

loss of words, not to mention comprehensible thoughts.

     "I've been wanting to talk to you for quite a while," Jurden stated. "I

just needed

some...push to get to

it." He motioned to the couch. "Please, sit."

     Zev did so, his legs weakened. Jurden crossed his arms and sighed as he

looked at the

man. "Ask it, Zev. I know you've wanted to for a long time."

     Zev closed his eyes, trying to gather himself. "How?" he whispered.

"How could you let

her do it?"

     "I hardly *let* her do anything..."

     "You could have stopped her!" Zev snapped, anger covering his features

as his eyes

opened and flared. "You could have done something to stop her! How could you

have let her done this to

us?! To our world? Dammit, did we mean so little to you that you couldn't

even stop us from

being killed?!" Zev took a breath, realizing he was screaming at his god.

     Jurden stared back with a sad expression. "Do you think I wanted it to

happen?" he whispered.

"Do you truly believe I wanted to lose so many of my worshipers? I will

point out, Zev, that you

did not know each and every being on Reudia. I did. I knew all their hopes,

their dreams and their

plans for the future, all of which Roz stole away."

     Zev looked chagrined as Jurden went on. "As for letting her do

it...Well, that is one of the

effects of the entire 'free will' thing. Frankly...even I didn't realize

just how far she'd go. Or that

she'd actually manage to do it. Not until it was too late." He looked away,

his face drawn in

memory. "All I could do was cry. For them. For you. I cried enough to fill

every ocean and river

on Reudia five times over."

     Zev bowed his head. "But you could have..done...something..."

     Jurden shook his head. "There are limits to what I'm allowed to do,

Zev. Free will is

necessary for people to survive and to grow. To simply take it away in any

way, shape or

form, hurts all. So, if that means some evil must survive, so be it. These

are limits set

by the One Being we must all bow to. Resurrecting the entire population

definitely fits under

them. I wasn't the only one touched like that. There are other gods of the

other worlds she murdered

who also lost most of their worshipers." He paused and shook his head.

"Although only I lost

almost all but one of mine." He sighed and paced a bit. "I feel the pain

every day, Zev. Just as you

do."

     He looked at Zev. "And I also feel the relief that you stopped her. And

that relief is felt by

all of your people in my domain. They're proud of you, Zev. I'm proud of

you. Especially now

with Cortan. You know how those monsters operate. Getting the people of this

town to destroy

their protectors was only one part on the plan. The realization of what they

had done when the

hold was broken, that they had killed their loved ones and the pain and

grief that would have

caused, was its true objection. You stopped that. You saved them and I can't

tell you how proud

of you I am due to that."

     Zev felt a tear roll down his cheek and could barely choke out "thank

you."

     Jurden crossed his arms. "I didn't come before to you because...I was

afraid." He nodded

at Zev's surprised expression. "Yes...a god knows fear. I was afraid

you'd be too angry to listen

or talk. You would forsake me and then..." He look down. "Then...I don't

know what would have

happened."

     Zev felt a pain as he saw the obvious emotion on Jurden's face. He

licked his dry lips

as he spoke. "I...am sorry. For not respecting you enough over the years."

     Jurden waved his hand. "It's all right. Just know that as I said, I am

proud of you for

stopping her."  Jurden nodded as he added, "And I feel even more proud over

what you did

tonight. To aid these people when they had no idea what they were facing.

That took true

courage, Zev. I'm glad to see you're adapting to this place well."

     Zev wiped at his face as he looked away. "I don't want to adapt too

much."

     Jurden smiled. "Zev...you won't be betraying me or Reudia if you decide

to give this

planet a try. I want you to be happy. I think this planet can give you that.

If you give it a try."

     Zev smiled back. "I...might." He looked at Jurden with

concern. "But..what

about you?"

     Jurden pursed his lips. "I'm not sure yet. There are a few races still

in the early stages of

cultural development that might be looking for a new deity." He shrugged.

"Well, I do have

plenty of time to figure it all out. I know one thing I have to do."

     "What's that?"

     "Get a few pictures of Roz the way she is now so I can show them to the

gods of the

other worlds she destroyed."  He turned and then paused to crane his head

towards Zev. "Oh,

Zev? One more thing. A message from your wife."

     Zev's eyes widened at that. "What?"

     Jurden winked. "She says be happy with whatever you do. And whoever you

do it with.

Meaning, go get her." With a flash of light, he was gone, leaving Zev alone

with his own thoughts.

Suddenly, there was a flash as he reappeared. "Oh, yes, I forgot. I think

there's something you

should know about a certain scroll..."

 

 

Amy Madison's Home

2008 Hours PST

 

     Shaw sat on Amy's bed, looking down at her feet. The rest of the

Amazons were

downstairs, recovering from the ordeal. Amy had seen that her cousin needed

some private time

and had given her some space. The Harper just sat, her mind still trying to

absorb all that had

happened and what she could do about it.

     There was a flash of light and Shaw looked up, startled. Her eyes

widened as she saw

Millie standing before her with a warm and loving smile on her face.

     "Mother?" Shaw asked, startled. "What are you doing here?"

     "I wanted to talk about what happened."

     Shaw sighed. "Mother...I have already forgiven..."

     "But you're still angry. And I do not blame you, it is a natural

condition. But it's why

you're still angry that I want to discuss." She looked at Shaw carefully.

"What angered you more

than anything about this?"

     Shaw looked down. "He questioned my beliefs. He told me you were not

worthy of my

devotion." Tears began to well in her eyes. "He has always respected my

feelings...and then he

destroyed your statue." She shook her head. "It meant so much to me and it

is gone..."

     Millie reached out to cup Shaw's chin in her hand, bringing her gaze

up. "It can be

replaced, little one. And I will do so. But I ask you, don't be angry with

Ulric for what happened.

It was not his true self."

     Shaw blinked back tears. "I...hated it...the argument...the fight..."

     Millie smiled. "It is natural for daughters and fathers to disagree on

points from time to

time. You certainly had such arguments with your grandparents." Shaw let out

a small chuckle at

that. "And they loved you all the more for it that you were willing to stand

up for what you

believed in. And Ulric feels the same. You know, in your heart, that it was

not his true feelings

shown toward you. You have seen the dark side of others before, so you

can help Ulric face

his."

     Shaw slowly nodded. "Yes...yes I can." She smiled. "Thank you, Mother."

She paused,

the smile fading at the look on Millie's face. "Mother? Is there something

else?"

     Millie bit her lip. "Shawukay...we also need to discuss the Scroll."

     Shaw was startled, her face becoming drawn. "You know I will not go

against you,

Mother. I would never betray you like that."

     "And in standing against your family, you betray what I first told you

when you came to

me."

     Shaw's head shot up, shock and disbelief in her features. "What?" she

choked out.

     Millie moved closer to look her in the eye. "Daughter, I am no longer a

Terran god. I

have not been tied to this world for centuries."

     Shaw was getting the idea but didn't want to accept it. "What are you

saying?"

     "If worst comes to worst," Mille told her. "If the gods ever tried to

destroy humanity, I

would not be among those who would attack your family. You would be

free to stand

beside them."

     Shaw spent about fifteen seconds assimilating this. Her eyes narrowed

as anger burst out

of her. "Why did you NOT TELL ME THIS!!!"

     "Daughter..."

     "I have been worrying myself into a nervous wreck for WEEKS!! I have

been asking you

for your guidance and you have not said a WORD on the matter!"

     Millie sighed. "You know I have other responsibilities, Shawukay."

     "What about your responsibilities to me?!" Shaw shrieked

     Millie just cocked an eyebrow. "Well. Someone has a high opinion of

herself."

     Shaw stopped, her momentum broken as her anger and bluster went out the

window.

"Mother...I..."

     Millie moved forward and brought Shaw into a hug. "I am sorry too,

little one. I did not

wish to hurt you, but things on Faerun are taking a dangerous turn and that

is where my priorities

must lie."

     Shaw closed her eyes as the warmth of the embrace came over her. "I

know that but..it

hurts to think I might have to..."

     "Never," Millie said in a fierce tone. "I would never force you into a

situation like that! I

have gone over these last weeks. I understand your pain and I tell you this

and I tell you now.

You will never have to choose between your family and me. Your destiny lies

with your family

and that is where you are happy. If you are happy, daughter, then I am happy

as well. They are

your family and that is where your duty lies."

     Shaw cried softly, melting in her goddess' arms. Millie just held her,

her own eyes

shimmering as she tried to give her daughter the love she needed right now.

 

 

Ulric Johannsen's Church

2012 Hours PST

 

     The church was dim and silent, the soft whisper the only noise. Ulric

knelt in the front

pew, his hands brought together with the crucifix dangling. His head was

bowed, the sign of dried

tears on his cheeks as he recited prayer after prayer after prayer.

     "Yer gonna wear yerself out if ye keep it up, laddie," an Irish brogue

called out.

     Ulric stiffened and turned to see Liam and Robin walking down the

aisle. He rose to his

feet and took a few steps back from the two Eternals whose loves he had so

wronged.

     Realizing his expression, Robin waved a hand. "Easy, Ulric. We're not

mad, okay? Really.

We just wanted to make sure you're okay."

     Ulric let out a deep breath. "No, Robin...I am not." He turned away,

walking toward the

altar.

     "Look, Father, we know it was rough-----"

     "Rough?" Ulric cut Liam off as he turned around. "Liam, I insulted the

faith of the

Amazons and I struck Jenny. I told Giles she was a whore. I invaded the

team's personal space, I

put down their beliefs and feelings toward one another. I called Larry...I

was prepared to exorcize

their souls as they were being burned at the stake. And what I did to

Shaw..." He closed his eyes

and rubbed his forehead.

     "Ulric, we don't blame you," Robin stressed. "We know it wasn't you and

so do the

guys."

     "Ye were being influenced, laddie," Liam added. "You didn't know what

ye were doing."

     "But I did, Liam," Ulric replied. "I knew...and I felt it was right. It

doesn't matter whether

I was controlled or not. My actions were unforgivable."

     "Give them a chance, Ulric," Robin pressed. "You'll see how forgiving

they are."

     "Not of this," Ulric softly said. He turned and began to walk out of

the main church. "Tell

them...I am sorry, will you? I have to go pack."

     Robin and Liam exchanged a confused look. "Pack?"

     "I can't stay here." Ulric paused to look at them, his face ashen. "Not

after what I've

done. I'm leaving. Leaving Sunnydale, leaving California. I'm not sure where

I'll go but...I can't

be here."

     "Now hold on!" Liam burst. "This is going too far! Running away? Is

that what you

taught Shaw?"

     "It doesn't matter what I taught her, Liam," Ulric solemnly stated. "I

betrayed all my

lessons to her when I desecrated her faith."

     "Ulric, you can't-----"

     "Thank you for trying, Robin...but this is for the best. For all of us.

Excuse me."

     He turned to walk out, leaving Robin and Liam staring at each other.

"I've seen

persecution complexes in my day but that poor bloke takes the cake," Liam

stated.

     Robin was already thinking. "Okay, let's go. We need someone who can

talk to him on his

own level. And I think I know just the one to call."

 

 

Amy Madison's Home

2015 Hours PST

 

     "So, any luck?" Cordelia asked. She, Amy, Jenny and Willow were in the

kitchen as the

redhead hung up the phone.

     Willow shook her head. "No. She still won't pick up. I hope she's ok."

     "Hopefully, she won't remember this," Jenny said, trying to make Willow

feel better.

"You know how easily people can ignore the truth here."

     "I certainly can," a soft female voice called out. Artemis suddenly

appeared, causing a

show of respectful bows all around. "Lady Goddess, what are you doing here?"

Jenny asked.

     "I wanted to see how you were all coping from the ordeal," the Goddess

of the Hunt

stated.

     "Why do you care?" Cordelia snapped.

     Seeing Artemis stunned, Jenny spoke up. "Lady Goddess, we apologize.

But this is the

third time in as many months that you haven't been able to help us.

Outworld, the body switch,

now this."

     "I try to be there for you when I can-----"

     "Which hasn't been lately," Cordelia remarked.

     Artemis arched an eyebrow. "Ah. So I'm supposed to drop everything on

my plate just to

help you through every single crisis and give you no room to grow on your

own?" She snorted.

"Now I know how Millie feels of Shaw's high opinion of herself."

     That brought some chagrined looks from the Amazons as Artemis let out a

sigh. "I love you

all, I truly do. But you must understand, I have other duties and

responsibilities. Even if I could

keep an eye on you all the time...my constant interference would only hurt, not

help. Believe

me, I know.  I've seen

it before." She smiled softly. "I know it was rough..and I am proud of how

you handled the way

your faith was tested. It reassures my faith in you all."

     "Thank you," Cordelia softly said. "I...I'm sorry."

     "It's all right," Artemis reassured her. "You are still human and I

think we've all seen the

way the human mind reacts to severe circumstances." She let her eyes sweep

over the others.

"Which is a reason I am here. Ulric is going to have a difficult time

handling his guilt over what he

did while under that creature's influence. He's going to need to know you do

not blame him for

it."

     "We don't," Amy assured her.

     "Yes, well, that's the funny thing about humans," Artemis said. "When

you get started on

a guilt trip, you're ready to take the blame for everything up to and

including the hole in the

ozone layer." She shrugged. "He'll need to know that you can accept

him again."

     "Maybe we should talk to him now," Jenny suggested.

     Artemis shook her head. "No, it's too early for that. Besides...I

believe that's being taken

care of now."

 

 

Ulrich Johannson's Church

2048 Hours PST

 

 

     Ulric was walking through the church. He swept all around it, taking it

all in. He felt a

pain in his heart as he realized this would be his last sight of it. He

didn't want to go, truly. But he

couldn't see any other options. "It's best this way," he softly said. "It's

best to try and start

elsewhere."

     "Chicago is lovely this time of year."

     Ulric spun around and watched another man calmly stride up the aisle.

It took a moment

for him to see the dark clothes and white collar and the familiar gray hair

and face. "Father

Tarring?"

     Father Bernard Tarring nodded as he came up to the other priest. "If

you do leave, go the

old fashioned way. Teleportation can be hell on a light stomach."

     Ulric instantly understood. "Robin and Liam."

     Tarring nodded. "Yes. They thought another man of the cloth could get

through to you

better than most can. They gave me a quick recap of what happened."

     "And how long did that take?"

     "About half an hour."

     "They're getting quicker."

     "Living with humans makes them impatient." Tarring smiled lightly but

it faded as he saw

Ulric turning away. "Ulric...you can't blame yourself."

     "Who else can I blame?" Ulric snapped. He paced angrily. "I am tired of

people saying

they understand when they don't! I was ready to kill them, Tarring! Can you

stand there and say

that you truly understand------"

     "I killed an eight-year old child."

     Ulric immediately stopped speaking. He simply stared in disbelief as

Tarring looked away.

"When I was a soldier...I killed a lot of people. You probably knew that

already. Most deserved

it. But..." He took a deep breath. "It was a firefight in a small town,

doesn't even matter where it

was. In a gunfight...I was only concentrating on the enemy, nothing else. I

was so used to not

having to deal with anything else. So when I heard a sound nearby...I acted

on instinct."

     He moved to sit on a pew as Ulric just stared at him. "It was..." he

took a deep breath. "She

was eight. God knows what she was doing there. I still remember the look in

her eyes...the way

they stared up...the blood on her white shirt...I watched her die in front

of me and knew my life

couldn't go on like that."

     He paused to collect himself before going on. "It was ruled an accident

but it didn't

matter. I knew it was my fault. I resigned shortly after. I spent the next

few months getting drunk

and wallowing in my guilt before I ended up at a church and found God. And

found the path to

healing my spirit."

     Ulric studied him. "And...do you think yourself forgiven?"

     Tarring sighed. "I'd like to think so." He looked up, his face

stronger. "Ulric, you and I

are luckier than most. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God exists

because we've seen

his servants. We've talked to angels and felt their love. Katie and Nicky

McDaniels had their

wounds healed by seeing the spirit of their daughter. And seeing as how St.

Michael hasn't come

down to fry either of us with lightning, I think we're relatively safe."

     Ulric crossed his arms and looked away. "But still...To tear into them,

to try and kill them,

to turn my back and all the things I had said..." He looked down. "I became like

Garrow."

     Tarring was on his feet, shaking his head. "You are nothing like

Garrow, Ulric. Nothing.

He was a pedophile who tried to wipe out the world. He made his choice to do

what he did. You

didn't. Never compare yourself to that fiend. You're a true servant of God." He

leaned forward, his

eyes on the other priest. "Ulric, you told Drusilla, a vampire, that God

could forgive her for what

the demon did. If He can forgive her and if He can forgive me, then He can

certainly forgive you

for a sin far less than ours."

     "You believe so?" Ulric softly asked.

     "I know so." Tarring let out a sudden chuckle. "I must say, Ulric, you

are being a tad

more self-centered than I would have imagined. Judas' sin wasn't the

betrayal, remember. He was

forgiven for that. But he didn't believe himself capable of forgiveness, a

hubris that led him to

suicide." He placed a hand on Ulric's shoulder. "God forgives you. I forgive

you. Shaw and the

Lady no doubt forgive you. All these people here will forgive you. But you

have to forgive

yourself before you can heal."

     Ulric was silent before nodding. "Thank you," he choked out. "I needed

to hear

that...thank you."

     Tarring nodded back as he spoke. "I would like to stay longer but I

have my own duties to

attend to. Plus handling the Pantheon."

     "How are things with them?"

     "A bit more...exhaustive than I would have imagined."

     "No one ever said the path to forgiveness would be easy, Bernard."

     "No. But it is a good path, Ulric. You should start walking on it."

Tarring gave him a final pat

on the shoulder before turning and walking away. Ulric stood in the church,

his heart now lighter

than it had been before as he reflected on the man's words.

 

 

Chronicles of Wanderer

Curses & Crumbs

by Michael Weyer

 

 

Part nine: In which final amends are made and an long-time resident makes

her first appearance.

 

 

Summer's Antiques

June 20th, 1999

1012 Hours PST

 

 

     "Thanks for helping out, Steve," Joyce said as she handed the

Wanderer a large

vase. Steve nodded as he reached up to place it on a high shelf. Zev was

nearby, examining a

sheet of paper and making notes on it.

     "I'm happy to," the Wanderer told her. "Either of you heard from Ulric?

I went by the

Church earlier but he didn't seem to be in."

     Joyce shook her head. "No. Not since last night."

     Steve sighed. "I hope he's okay. He looked like he was taking this very

hard.

     "Old Reudian saying," Zev interjected. "A man has no harsher and more

unforgiving judge

than himself." He made a few more notations on his paper. "I believe that's

it," the alien stated.

"Hopefully, that other delivery will come in this afternoon."

     "I hope so," Joyce said as she moved around the counter. "I lost enough

business during the last

few days, I can't----" She broke off as the bell over the door rang. She,

Zev and Steve looked

up to see Bob and Carol enter. The couple had shameful looks on their faces

as they approached.

     "Um, hi," Carol said. "We um...we wanted to talk about how...ah...well,

how...."

     "How we've been acting like total assholes for the last couple of days,"

Bob stated.

     "Exactly," Carol stated. "We...we don't know what came over us, for us to

say

what we did to you all."

     Steve smiled and shook his head. "It's okay, guys."

     "No, it's not," Carol interrupted. She looked to Joyce. "I'm so sorry

for what I said about

you and Buffy. Neither of you deserved that and you certainly didn't deserve

having us

try to kill you."

     Steve raised an eyebrow in surprise. "You remember that?"

     Bob nodded. "Yeah. We both do." He bit his lip. "And...we're a little

curious as to how

Shaw was able to do what she did."

     The three looked at each other and Zev rolled his eyes. "Don't look at

me. You two have

lived here longer, you can handle the explanations."

 

 

     Shaw's heels clicked along the pavement as she made her way toward

Joyce's shop. She

wasn't certain if Joyce would be able to give her a job, but she believed it was

at

least worth a shot. She paused as she saw a familiar figure coming toward

her. "Yes?"

     Jessica licked her lips as she shuffled her feet. "Um, Shaw...the last

few days are...kinda

muggy in my head. But..I kinda get the feeling I said something to you that

I shouldn't have. And

I want to apologize for whatever it was."

     Shaw nodded. "It is all right, Jessica. Believe me, I have had to

handle a few such

apologies today."

     "I know but...Did I say something bad?"

     Shaw hesitated before speaking. "You called me a freak."

     Jessica's face was crestfallen. "Oh, God! Shaw----"

     "I have been called worse," the Harper quickly told her.

     Jessica bit her lip. "Can you forgive me?" she whispered.

     Shaw nodded. "As long as you do not call me ‘Lady Spock,' yes." She

smiled and walked

off, leaving Jessica behind to wonder at her. *That Scot is the only person

I know who can take a

perfectly good guilt trip and use it to make jokes.*

 

 

     Bob and Carol stared at the three people in dull amazement. "An elf?"

Carol said in a

blank voice. "She's...an elf?"

     Steve nodded. "I guess it was going to come out sooner or later. Yes,

she is. That's how

she did what she did yesterday."

     "Wow," Bob whispered. "I always knew there was something different

about her but

this..."

     Carol paused. "What about that guy who keeps coming to see her in the

shop? Liam? Is he

a..."

     "No, he's a leprechaun. And before you ask, Robin's a faery."

     As Bob and Carol's shock intensified, Steve and Joyce glared at Zev.

"Don't you ever try

to ease into anything?" Steve demanded.

     Zev seems honestly surprised. "Why? This way saves so much time."

     As Steve rolled his eyes, the bell over the door opened and everyone

turned to see the

subject of conversation enter. Shaw stopped in place as she stared at Bob

and Carol. "Oh. Hello."

     Carol licked her lips. "Shaw...we're sorry. We are so very, very

sorry."

     "If you'd like..." Bob started. "We'll give you your job back in a

heartbeat...if you still

want to work with us, that is."

     Shaw thought about it for a long moment before nodding. "I can accept

that, yes. Of

course, the raise you are going to give me will help."

     "Raise? What----"

     "Honey, let it go..." Carol turned to Shaw. "Um...They just told us

about....you. I mean, who

you are, really."

     Shaw shot a sharp glance at Steve who quickly informed her "They

remember what you

did last night. I figured it was finally time."

     "Why didn't you tell us before?" Carol said.

     "I did."

     Carol frowned. "Where?"

     "On my application."

     Carol blinked and then grimaced. "Oh, God...you marked down

'multiracial."

     Zev chuckled as he motioned to Shaw. "Shaw, may I talk to you a

minute?"

     "Certainly," the elf said as she followed Zev to the small back room.

The alien crossed his

arms as he turned to focus on her.

     "Are you all right, Shaw? After last night..."

     "I am well," the Harper told him. "The Lady has been most helpful."

     "Yes. Your gods do tend to be that way."

     Shaw stared at him quizzically. "What do you mean?"

     Zev cleared his throat. "I finally saw Jurden last night. He came to

me, talked to me,

helped me finally make peace with what Roz had done. He helped me understand

my place here

and hinted toward my future." He brushed at his hair. "I did get angry at

why he hadn't come

before and his reply was----"

     "You have a high opinion of yourself," Shaw recited.

     Zev smiled. "You too, eh?"

     "The Lady has a way of..cooling the arrogance that sometimes comes over

me." She

paused before looking Zev in the eye. "Zev...why do you and I get along so

well?"

     "Easy, really," the alien replied. "We're quite alike. We're both the

only representatives of

our worlds on this planet. We've both lost loved ones and led tragic lives.

We've both spent

too many years consumed with hate and guilt and pain. And now...now we've

found ourselves

with people who care about us beyond all that and are willing to give us a

home."

     "And the fact that we occasionally act haughty and superior to them

while boasting

amazing fighting skills is another shared trait."

     "Occasionally?" Zev remarked and the two shared a laugh.

     Shaw smiled again. "I am glad that you are getting along with more of

us, Zev."

     "Yes, well, Faith is still my favorite."

     "Why, if I may ask?"

     "I'm not sure, really. Maybe because I just enjoy someone who will

always speak their

mind. Even if it's uncalled for."

     "Xander and Cordelia do that."

     "Well, in their case, it's short sentences."

 

 

     Carol smiled at Joyce. "Joyce..I'm sorry again for what I said to you

about Buffy. Can

we...can we try to go back to the way things were?"

     Joyce nodded. "By all means. You sure you won't have any problems."

     "Depends," Carol joked. "Is Zev an elf?"

     "No, he's an alien."

     "Well, okay, then, he WHAT?"

     "Ah!" Zev cried out as he entered the room, holding a finger to his

ear. "Adjust volume, I

have to remember to keep adjusting the volume..."

 

 

Joyce Summer's House

1427 Hours PST

 

     The entire group was gathered at Joyce's house, which they all felt

would be a bit more

comfortable than Steve's for meeting with Ulric. Robin and Liam had been

catching up with what

had happened as the others dealt with some of the fallout.

     "So," Randi was saying. "After being subjected to a breakfast in bed

consisting of burned

bacon and wet toast, profuse apologies and even an attempt at bribery, I

was finally able to

convince Brian I wasn't at all mad at him and I would not use this to

torture and tease him for the

next few months."

     "Wow, breaking a code of the older sibling?" Larry remarked. "He must

be broken up."

     Willow snorted. "At least she gets a bit of apology rather than a

simple 'Hi, honey, sorry I

was out of it yesterday, did something important happen?'"

     "So, your mom doesn't remember anything?" Buffy asked.

     Willow shook her head. "No. She's doing that selective memory thing

your mom used to

do. She doesn't remember the whole Amazon/witch thing either." She bit her

lip. "But, um, there

is one thing."

     "What?"

     Willow looked to Oz. "She wants me to bring you to dinner."

     "Oh," the werewolf said.

     "Yeah, she kind of insists on meeting the man who took her daughter's

virginity."

     Oz's eyes widened in a rare show of shock. "She remembered *that?*"

     Willow nodded. "Yep. Seems even her memory blocks are a bit wonky."

     "Can I get a rain check?"

     "Not if you ever want to see me naked again."

     "Jurden, please, get us off this topic," Zev pleaded.

        “I am somewhat confused,” Kendra stated. “I can understand we were not effected because of the various spells around us and Giles and Jenny due to their influences but why would Brian be effected? He has magics within him?”

        “Personally, I think the Grail might have given us an extra boost,” Giles theorized. “It would explain why Joyce stood up to it better than most others.”

     "Well, if there's one good thing here," Steve said. "We know we have to

beef up the

security a bit against gas attacks."

     "I was surprised you fell to that," Zev stated.

     "What did you want us to do?" Randi snapped. "Hold our breaths?"

     "It might have helped. How long can you hold your breath?"

     "Well, that's a stupid question," Amy stated. "Why should you have to

know how long---- "

     "Three minutes, seventeen seconds." At everyone's stares, Shaw shrugged.

"You

would be amazed

why."

     "Okay, fine," Amy said, turning back to Zev. "How long can you hold

your breath?"

     Zev looked up in thought. "Truth to tell, never timed it all the way.

Lost track after the

first half hour."

     Before Steve could curse having to know this man, the doorbell rang.

Joyce quickly

moved to open it and saw Ulric waiting. "Oh. Come in, Ulric. They're all

waiting for you."

     "Thank you," Ulric said as he entered. He followed Joyce into the

living room as all

conversation stopped and all eyes turned on him. Making a mental prayer,

Ulric did his best to

straighten up and speak.

     "What I did to all of you....was unforgivable. I insulted you, I

demeaned you, I tried to kill

you. I know I was influenced but my actions still remain. All I can say is I

am sorry and I hope

you can forgive me. And if you cannot...then I'll leave. Leave Sunnydale now

and never come

back."

     Shaw's head shot up at that as the group took in his words. "Come on,

Ulric," Faith said.

"No need to turn tail just cause you got hit by some whammy."

     "Faith," Amy hissed in warning.

     He looked toward Larry. "Larry...I am so very sorry to you, especially,

almost more than

Shaw. What I said, what I did..I am sorry for hurting you."

     "Hey, it's cool," Larry said. "Guess the telepathy thing sort of kicked

you to the whole

party line." At Ulric's expression, Larry waved a hand. "You think that's

the first time I've heard

stuff like that? Hell, I used to say the same stuff just to get in with

other guys. I know that hate.

I'm used to it."

     "But it still hurt you."

     "Yeah, it did," the jock admitted. "And it hurt a lot more coming from

you. But I know it

wasn't really you, Ulric." He grinned. "And I know if a couple of angels

speak well of me, I'm in

good shape from above." He nodded to the priest. "I think you can say the

same."

     "Ulric, we forgive you," Steve stated. "We all do. It wasn't you, it

could never truly be

you. We all understand that."

     "What we won't understand," Buffy said. "Is you deciding to leave us

high and dry.

Running away from your problems isn't good for you, Ulric. You're better

than that."

     Ulric licked his lips. "I...don't know what to say."

     "Say you'll stay," Steve stated. "That's all we need to know."

     "Please say you'll stay," Zev interjected. "If you leave, then I'll be

the only sane man here

and that's far too much for one person."

     Ulric nodded deeply. "I still dislike having that side of me come out.

But then I suppose

you have the evil as a mirror for the good."

     "Evil isn't the mirror of good, Ulric," Steve said. "Good is the

reflection of good."

          Giles moved up and cleared his throat. "Ulric...about before..."

     "Giles," Ulric broke in. "If you can forgive me for all I did, I can

certainly forgive you for

striking me. I deserved it."

     "Well, I made some...less than flattering comments about you. I

I basically told

you to go to hell."

     Ulric made a small smile. "Diamond cut diamond, Giles. I pretty much

said the same about

you."

     "Yes, well at least you didn't have an angry Harper try to rip your throat

out over it."

     That made Ulric look toward Shaw. The Harper was turning and walking

toward the

kitchen. Frowning, Ulric followed her. He came into the kitchen to see her

leaning over the sink, a

hand to her face. "Shaw? Shaw, are you all right?"

     She spun on him, her face flush with anger. "What in the Nine Hells

were you thinking?!"

Shaw shrieked

     Ulric was taken aback at her sudden outburst. "What?"

     "You would leave Sunnydale? You would leave because of something that

was not your

fault?"

     "Shaw, if they cannot forgive me..."

     "To the Abyss with them!" Shaw snapped. "This is not about them! This

is about you!"

She moved in to face him. "Ulric, this was not your fault. Yes, you saw your

dark side being

brought forth. But it was *not your fault!* It was the alien who used his

mental abilities to drive

you to do these things. I know the difference between willingly and

unwillingly releasing your primal

and violent instincts, Ulric."

     "Do you?" he softly asked.

     Shaw nodded. "Yes. In New York, last November. I felt a rage I had not

felt since

arriving on this world. The difference was..I welcomed it. I wanted it to

happen because I wanted

to hurt the Horseman for what he did. I got through that darkness, Ulric and

this was a darkness

that was truly in my nature. This was not in yours. I know that."

     As Ulric took in her words, Shaw continued. "What of your congregation?

Who would

look after the Church and the people who came there to worship? The people

who need someone

like you? Who would Drusilla come to see? She needs a

confessor to help her.

What will happen to her without the counsel she so desperately needs?" Her

eyes were tearing up.

"And what of me? Who will be my legal guardian?"

     "I would point out that technically, you are fifty-four..."

     "I cannot lose you," Shaw choked. "I am not ready for that...to be left

alone...again.."

     Ulric brought her into a warm hug, his own tears now showing. "You'll

never be alone,

Shaw. Never. Not by me..not by anyone. And not now."

     Shaw cried softly. "Then...you'll stay?"

     Ulric nodded. "Yes. I think I already knew I would."

     Shaw hugged harder and cried more tears of joy.

 

 

     "Well, this went better than I expected," Joyce stated as she and Zev

sat at the dining

room table, both throwing glances toward the living room.

     Zev nodded. "I must say, for a species that revels so much in

self-deception and self-

destruction, you humans can be surprisingly forgiving."

     "It's a character flaw," Joyce dryly said.

     Zev looked to Joyce. "Joyce..I'm curious. How are you handling the news

of the Scroll?"

     Joyce started before speaking. "Well, um, I'm glad of course. No reason

for an Immortal

to go after Buffy and-----"

     "Joyce," Zev broke in. "I meant...how do you handle the truth?"

     Joyce stared at him in shock, her jaw dropping as she realized what he

meant. "How...how

did you..."

     "Jurden told me," the alien answered. "He thought I might possibly

overhear Robin or

Liam talking about it and ask the wrong questions."

     Joyce shook her head. "But..I thought the Eternals swore----"

     "The Eternals involved in Earth did. Jurden has never been affiliated

with them so he's not

held by that promise." He smiled at Joyce. "Don't worry. Now that I know the

consequences and

what's at stake, I'll keep it secret. You have my word on that."

     Joyce took a deep breath to steady herself. "You really will?"

     Zev's expression sobered. "I've seen one home world die. I don't want

it to happen

again."

     Joyce sighed deeply. "Buffy isn't going to live this down."

     "What?" Zev asked. "You helping save the day again?"

     "Well, that," Joyce admitted. "But also, that a major evil that wasn't

a demon came to

town and she didn't get to hit it once."

     "Life is full of small disappointments." Zev looked up as Shaw and

Ulric exited the

kitchen. They looked at the duo in puzzlement. "Where are the others?" Shaw

asked.

     "Oh, Zev set it up for them to take a look at his computer," Joyce told

her.

     Shaw remained puzzled. "His computer? Why? Is there something about it

that makes it

different from the one Steve has?"

     "HOLY SHIT!" several voices let out from the living room.

     Zev looked to Ulric. "I'm trying to understand this. Just what is holy

about shit, anyway?"

     Ulric shook his head as he, Zev, Joyce and Shaw entered the other room.

They all saw the

team, wearing expressions of pure amazement. Even Robin and Liam seemed

impressed by the

abilities Zev's computer had.

     "So, what do you think?" Zev asked.

     "Will you marry me?" Willow blurted.

     "Or me?" Jenny added.

     "Let's see," Zev said, tapping a finger on his chin. "Annoy the Ripper

or a werewolf,

decisions, decisions..."

     Willow looked to Steve. "Steve...we are keeping that computer."

     Steve nodded, knowing there was no way to talk her out of it and turned

to Zev. "Will

you?"

     Zev nodded. "Certainly. As long as it still remains my property."

     "It will," Steve said. "And it will be your first official contribution

to the team. Welcome

to Section Seven, Zev."

          Zev turned to Joyce. "Should I be honored or terrified?"

     "How fast can you replicate that thing?" Willow quickly asked.

     Zev chuckled. "I'm afraid I can't. I don't have the technology I need

to build one. Or

rather, you don't have the technology I need to build one. In fact, you

don't even have the

technology you need to *build* the technology you'd need to build one.

Actually, you don't have

the technology you need to build the technology you need to build the

technology you need to

build one. Now that I think about it, you don't have the-----"

     "We get the subtle point," Jenny cut him off.

     Zev shrugged. "Sorry. It's like asking a teenage Henry Ford to build

you a Ferrari. It can't

be done. A shame too, I'd make a fortune selling them."

     Giles raised an eyebrow. "You'd be a capitalist?"

     "When in Rome..."

     "So who wants to go with me to the mall?" Cordelia asked.

     Zev stared at her. "After all that you've been through, you want to go

shopping?"

     "Hey, I love to shop! I was born to shop!"

     "So that's the reason," Zev muttered.

     "Hey, everybody!" a high voice called out. "Why didn't you tell me the

meeting had

started?" A figure came bounding down the stairs. She was about fifteen,

rail-thin, with

long brown hair and a pretty face with Angelina Jolie-like lips, clad in slacks

and a dark top. She

strolled right past both Robin and

Liam, who frowned at the unexpected appearance of the girl.

     Buffy rolled her eyes. "Because this isn't the ‘pain-in-the-butt' club

meeting," the Slayer

drawled.  "How many times do I have to tell you that you're not actually part of

the section,

Dawn?"

     "Hey, I've saved your collective butts plenty of times!" the girl yelled.

"I should

be part of this!"

     "Not until you're older," Joyce stated. "Preferably sometime in your late

forties."

     "But Mom..." the girl whined.

     "Dawn, I don't need you following your sister's example for once."

     While Buffy and the girl named Dawn shared similar pouts as everyone else

looked on

with amusement, Robin and Liam turned to each other and thought the same thing.

     <SISTER?!>