Out Of Africa - Chapter 4
written by Pythia

They appeared to have the exhibition to themselves. The Museum was never the most popular place in Sunnydale on a weekday afternoon. It was usually the haunt of languid art and history students from the college, who were occasionally disturbed by a chattering school party, but otherwise spent their time perched in front of assigned pieces, sketching and recording with diligence. Special exhibitions often drew a crowd; like the one which had brought the Incan Mummy to town for instance. But the Koenigsburg exhibit held little to excite the local populace. It was an attraction aimed at the erudite and the earnest scholar. Buffy could quite understand Giles and Wesley wanting to spend an entire weekend in the place.

The hall was divided into angled segments, each area dedicated to the artifacts from a particular part of the world. The Chinese pieces had pride of place by the door; the Indian material on the right and the South American to its left. The back half of the hall had been given over to the more extensive African selection – but to get there, they had to wend their way through artfully laid out pathways, flanked by cases filled with documents and panels of faded, sepia coloured photographs.

Buffy sighed, leaning over yet another display case to stare at ledgers and records written in a scrawl of German text. The first few panels had offered a potted history of the Koenigsburg family and the castle they had built and lived in. The castle stuff had been vaguely interesting, but the rest was a blur of boring family trees, painted portraits of plump German patriarchs and stern faced wives and mothers. She was beginning to think that Wesley had been right; there was nothing here that suggested any connection with the world of the occult or the undead. She did wonder – looking at one or two of the portraits – whether there’d been werewolves in the Koenigsburg family at one point, but, even if there had been, that wouldn’t link them to the exotic, dangerous creature that was currently stalking the streets of Sunnydale.

"There has to be something," she muttered, moving on to look up at the panel that talked about Marcus Koenigsburg, the man who’d made the collection that was now on display. Wesley had dismissed his fellow Watcher’ words as mere delirium, the random mutterings of a confused and afflicted mind. Buffy wasn’t so sure. True, Giles had been weak and in obvious distress. If it was a spell the vampire had cast, it had been a malignant one. He was still fighting the repercussions of her attack, and it was looking ominously like a losing battle. But he hadn’t sounded delirious – and his insights had served her on more occasions than she really liked to think about. There was a connection. She just had to find it.

"Buffy " Willow’s exclamation drew her away from lists of dates and places she’d never heard of. "Come look at this "

She moved across to look, blinking as she focussed on the faded photograph in the middle of the next display. It was a dingy, time stained image of three figures, captured in a moment of pride and triumph. The man on the left was Marcus Koenigsburg, his statesman like visage staring out of the picture with stern and smug satisfaction on his face. His greying beard gave him presence; his monocle made him look vaguely ridiculous.

Next to him there was a young woman. She was holding up a broken stone table of some sort, presenting it to the photographer with a warm and delighted smile. And next to her, completing the trio, was a very earnest looking man, his face clean shaven and his eyes framed by a pair of huge horn-rimmed glasses. All three were dressed for the period; tightly buttoned clothes, the men in sombre tweed, the woman in a long skirt and a white, lace decorated blouse.

"So?" Buffy frowned, not seeing what her friend was getting so excited about. Willow jabbed a finger at the caption next to the photograph.

‘Marcus Koenigsburg proudly displays the Utren tablet, unearthed at his dig in Somalia in 1899. His daughter, Eva, holds the priceless relic; the Baron’s English assistant, Dr Gregory Webber, is to her right. Dr Webber’s work on translating the tablet was not found among the Koenigsburg papers; it is believed the material was returned to his family following his and Eva’s tragic death less than a year after the dig, and has been lost to history as a result.’

Buffy lifted her eyes from the text and stared at the image with an odd feeling churning in her gut. What was it Giles had whispered, had tried so hard to convey? Ask Eva

"Look at her," Willow was saying excitedly. "Look at him. Who do they remind you of?"

The girl in the photograph was slightly built; her blond hair was piled up in a style that suggested maturity – but she couldn’t have been much more than seventeen when the picture was taken. The Englishman beside her had a pale, pensive look about him - as if he’d spent too long pouring over old books and older artifacts. His hand was resting on her shoulder …

"Oh my God." Buffy suddenly got it. She should have seen it right from the start. She knew exactly what she was looking at.

The face of a fellow Slayer.

Whose Watcher was standing proudly and supportively at her side.

"You see it?" Willow asked eagerly. "She’s you – and he’s a Giles. Or a - Wesley, perhaps." She frowned, trying to reconcile the comparison. "More a Wesley, actually."

Buffy smiled, knowing what she meant. "A little bit of both, I think," she said, reaching to trace the curve of her predecessor’s face, envying her that bright and carefree smile. "You think they have a mould? You know? Turn them out like- like loaves of bread, or bars of chocolate?"

Willow gave it serious thought for a moment. "It could be a stamp," she suggested. "A cookie cutter, maybe. Or those things they use to make car number plates …" Their eyes met – and they both burst out laughing, realising how ridiculous that sounded. But the resemblance, that impression of earnest, scholarly stuffiness, was uncanny. Buffy turned back for a closer look – and shivered. There was a hint of haunted anxiety lurking behind Gregory Webber’s smile. She knew that look. She’d seen it in Giles’ eyes too many times.

"She looks happy," Willow observed warily. "You think her father knew? About the Slayerness?"

"I don’t know." Buffy moved further into the exhibition, seeking out other images of Eva, finding a few that portrayed her in dutiful poses at her father’s side. Then, a little further on, another of her with her Watcher, the two of them standing – somewhat incongruously – in front of the Sphinx. She was looking smug. He had one of those long suffering expressions on his face, the sort that Giles often adopted when she’d done something unorthodox and spectacularly successful. "It must have been so different back then …"

How had a pampered and protected girl like that reacted to becoming the chosen one? Had she been a handful, a wilful, self-assured young woman, or had she accepted her destiny with meek and dutiful obedience? She had a determined, feisty look to her, despite the restrictive trappings that she wore. Her smile belied the horrors that must have beset her life; this Slayer had not yet been tested, not been through fires that would temper her heart and her soul.

His and Eva’s tragic death …

Buffy shivered. The night she had been tested – truly tested, that first time - she’d almost failed. The Master had overwhelmed her and she’d died. A gift of love had brought her back; she’d risen like a phoenix and found her true strength, the strength which had carried her through all the fires since. What evil had Eva faced, what horror had overwhelmed *her*, on that night so long ago? Had she died defending her Watcher, or had it been the other way around?

Had their death had meaning?

Had they won?

"She’s a good looking frauline, isn’t she?"

The voice was an unexpected intrusion. Buffy jumped, spinning round in alarm and only just stopping herself from dropping into a defensive stance. There was an elderly man standing behind her, studying the photographs with interest. He dropped his eyes from Eva’s portrait and smiled at her with friendly pleasure. "Pity she never had a chance to grow up. She was the reason he locked the collection away, you know? He couldn’t look at any of it after she died. Guilt, they say." His voice held the hint of a Germanic accent, a thickened edge that echoed memories of iron curtains and totalitarian regimes. "My name is Albrecht Kalskal. I am the one who has brought this exhibition to your country. It is so good to see the young take an interest in the past."

"Oh – oh," Buffy remembered her manners and put out her hand. He took it with solemn gravity. "Buffy Summers. This is my friend Will – Willow. We came – " She glanced at Willow, who looked back anxiously. ‘We came looking for vampires,’ was hardly the way to go here. "To see the African pieces," Buffy completed with sudden inspiration. That much was true at least. "My mother – she runs an Art Gallery? She’s really into the primitive stuff …"

Kalskal smiled. "Then you must bring her to see the collection," he advised, directing the two of them deeper into the displays. "Marcus was an avid collector – and an excellent archaeologist. His work in Somalia was outstanding. It is a great pity that it was lost for so long."

"Why was it lost?" Willow asked, skirting a rather disturbing looking statue. The old man sighed.

"Because of Eva. Such a tragic story. She was – everything to Marcus. He married late and her mother died giving her birth. He doted on her; could deny her nothing. She travelled everywhere with him, you know? Went on all his expeditions – except the last one." He led them out of the twisting pathways and into the open area which held the African display. Masks paraded around the walls, overlooking stuffed leaping lions, carved stone and huge ornate pottery jars. "It was winter. They had not been long back from Somalia, and they were occupied with unpacking and cataloguing what they had found there. Marcus was called away – something about a Byzantian jewel he was eager to get his hands on. Eva stayed at the Schloss with her father’s assistant, Dr Webber. A very erudite scholar by all accounts. Well," he corrected with a wry grin, "according to Marcus’ letters anyway. He had no fears about leaving her in his friend’s care. They should have been safe in the castle."

They should have been; isolated and alone in a remote castle in the depths of the German countryside. No doubt Webber had seen it as a golden opportunity to further his Slayer’s training – and had Eva, revelling in the freedom of her Father’s absence, driven her Watcher to distraction as she explored the true potential of her power? Buffy suspected she probably had – especially since that was what she would have done.

Actually, that was exactly what she had done. One of the things she loved about Giles was his long suffering patience; something which he’d more than ably demonstrated on days when she’d totally humiliated him in a sparring match. She couldn’t help that. It didn’t matter that he was the expert and there’d once been a time when she hadn’t known one end of a sword from the other. She was the Slayer, for heaven’s sake. He’d long since given up any attempt at formal training in favour of the stuff that worked. And kept her alive …

"What happened?" Willow was asking curiously. Kalskal shrugged.

"No-one knows. Marcus came home to find the castle deserted. The servants had all vanished – and he found his daughter and his friend both lying dead in the old banqueting hall, surrounded by all these pieces." His hand swept round the room in graphic display. "The official conclusion was that wolves had invaded the castle, and that Dr Webber had given his life in Eva’s defence. But wolves would have devoured the bodies – and while his body was badly ripped, there was scarcely a mark on her’s. Personally, I think the missing servants murdered them both. They then ransacked the castle for money and jewellery and fled, not realising the value of the artifacts they had left behind. Marcus ordered everything to be crated up and stored in the cellars of the castle. And that is where they remained until his death – and after, though long years of communist rule. It was only after the Berlin wall came down that I was asked to investigate the contents of the collection. And I found wonders." His smile was enthusiastic. "Look around you." His hand pointed out his treasures with delight. "Carvings from a civilisation that was old before Rome was born. Souvenirs from tribes later wiped out by Western diseases. The Utren tablet – " He indicated a case at the back of the hall. "Ancient writings which link the heart of Africa to the glories of Egypt. It’s been carbon dated at over four thousand years old. Wonderful things. Such a pity that you cannot see the pride of the collection, though. A remarkable piece. The thieves obviously thought so too."

"Something’s been stolen?" Buffy had been rapidly losing interest – but this little piece of information perked her right up. "Recently?"

"Yes." The old man affirmed, looking somewhat angry about it. "We have kept it out of the papers, hoping we can track it down before it is sold to a private collector. Fortunately they only took the one item, but it was one that will be sorely missed."

He led the way to the centre of the open space. There was an empty plinth standing in the middle of the floor. In a glass case next to it was an ornate staff made from ivory and inlaid with sculptured pieces of amber. It was at least seven foot long. Maybe longer. "Carved from a single tusk, we believe," Kalskal said. "Beautiful work. But it’s nothing without the statue." He nodded towards the nearest partition. There was a life sized photograph occupying half of it.

Buffy swallowed a gasp of surprise.

Because – while she was looking at a picture of Albrecht Kalskal’s missing statue, at a dark goddess, carved from mahogany – she was also looking at tattoos incised on arms and legs, at a pattern of bone and shell jewellery – and at sculptured features, which she’d recognised immediately.

The firsttime she’d seen them, they’d been smiling at her over Giles’ shoulder.

* * * * *

"Her name is Lilithu. Asha Lilithu, the mother of eternal hungers."

Wesley laid down the relevant volume of the Watcher’s diaries, opening it to a page that carried a sketch of the missing statue. Which wasn’t a statue at all, but a demoness – and had been all along.

"Whoa," Xander reacted. "Nothing like saying what you mean with your labels. Eternal hungers, huh? Sounds pretty vampy to me."

"That’s her." Buffy reached out to trace the coil of one tattoo, recalling the intricate pattern and how it had gleamed against her skin, even in the dark. "That’s exactly what she looked like."

"Yes," Wesley breathed, looking vaguely embarrassed. "Well – it seems that Giles was right. And we’ve been looking in the wrong places, so far."

"Gee," Xander drawled sourly. "Ya think?" He threw a smug look at Cordelia, who made a point of ignoring him. "Mark one up to Watcher number one," he said, sharing the thought and a knowing smile with Buffy. "Ahead on points, even when he’s out for the count."

The smile Buffy found to answer him was twisted. She didn’t think anyone was ahead on points. Not with this creature lurking somewhere, waiting for night to fall. "Xander," she said anxiously, "this – demoness – is dangerous. Giles said we should be careful. Do you think," she asked, addressing the question to Wesley, who was nodding his agreement to her assessment, "she’s the one that killed Eva – and Gregory?"

"Hard to say." Watcher number two pulled the book towards him, skimming the text with his eyes. "Giles might know …" He broke off, grimacing as he remembered the difficulty with that statement. "But – since he’s hardly in a position to tell us just at the moment, I shall simply have to investigate further. I’m not as familiar with this section of the diaries as he would seem to be, but it looks as if this entry is one of several Gregory Webber made shortly he before he died. As far as I can make out, they brought the statue back from Somalia – and it vanished shortly after it was unpacked from its crate. A man died – they thought killed by the thief. Then, these animal like vampires began attacking the village, and Eva saw Lilithu in the castle. Webber seemed to think that the text on the Utren tablet held the key to who and what she was. But his translations aren’t in the diaries."

"Should they be?" Buffy’s stomach held an anxious, unhappy knot. She had a bad feeling about all of this. She knew how to deal with the average vampire; you knocked them around a bit and then staked them. But she had no idea how to deal with this one. Statues that get up and walk around were bad enough - but statues that turned into evil, magic wielding vamps, confident enough to attack a Watcher right under his Slayer’s nose …

That one wasn’t listed in her handy ‘how to’ guide. She suspected it wasn’t listed in the handbook either.

"Not necessarily." Wesley was still skipping through Webber’s entries, trying to glean what he could without spending time on the detail. "If he intended to publish, he’d have been making separate notes. The tablet’s in the exhibition, isn’t it, Buffy?"

"Yes. Albrecht showed it to us. But he didn’t have a translation. He said – they think all of Gregory’s papers were sent back to England with his body."

Wesley nodded abstractedly. "They may be in the Council’s archives," he said. "I’ll give them a call. If they find them they can fax me a copy. It’ll save a lot of time."

"Great," Xander said, sitting up with confidence. "You go get the answers, Buffy goes a couple of rounds to soften her up, quick stake, and tada – this bitch is history. Again. Possibly." He thought about what he was saying. "It’s not going to be that easy, is it?"

"No," Buffy answered, shaking her head. "I can’t kill her – not until I know what she’s done to Giles. How to undo it."

"If it can be undone," Xander muttered uncomfortably. Buffy shivered at the thought.

"This just so doesn’t make any sense," Cordelia decided, leaning over Wesley’s shoulder so she could get a better look at the pictures in the book. "I mean – shells and wooden beads? Come on. If I were this – powerful sorceress, demon thing, first thing I’d do is hit the mall. Update my wardrobe a little."

"Uh – Cordy?" Buffy wasn’t sure she wanted to point this out, but… ‘Those are teeth and bones, not beads."

"Whatever," Cordelia shot back. "I’d still want to go shopping."

"She may be right." Wesley had been frowning over the entry in the diary. "Webber says the first place her hell spawn attacked was the village square. There was some kind of festival event that night. Six people were killed." He looked up with concern. "You might want to change your patrol pattern, Buffy. Go where the people are."

She nodded. "I’m on it. What we really need to do is find her lair. But if she’s siring children – sending them out to hunt – we have to stop that first. I’ll – uh – find Angel, see if he can help."

"Good idea." Wesley put down the book and stood up. "I’ll get onto the Council, see what I can find out."

"Yeah," Xander agreed, getting to his feet in turn. "And I’m off to take up Giles watch. I’ll send Will and Oz back to help with the research thing."

Buffy watched him leave, the cold knot in her stomach tightening with inevitability. Willow had promised to call if anything had changed. The fact that she hadn’t was supposed to be comforting – but all it really meant was that nothing had changed. That Giles was still fighting for his life, and there was nothing she could do about it.

Nothing more than she was doing, that is.

"Buffy?" Wesley’s question was concerned. "Are you all right? You look a little – pale."

She pulled herself together with an effort and found him a wan smile. "No, no, I’m fine. Really. I just – hate all this waiting around."

He returned the smile with a hesitant one of his own. "Has to be done. The research, I mean. Can’t send you into battle uninformed."

"Yes, I know. Forewarned is forearmed. Giles is always telling me that …"

It was only then that she realised the reason for Lilithu’s bold attack. It hadn’t been just to send a message of warning and contempt. She’d struck at the one person who – in normal circumstances – was there to arm the Slayer for the fight. Without a Watcher – or someone - to help investigate the clues and unravel the information she needed, she’d have been fighting blind. The vampire thought that she was crippled. Helpless.

She didn’t know about the Scooby Gang.

Or that this Slayer happened to have a Watcher in reserve …

* * * * *

"You will go – and you," Lilithu decided, smiling at two of her eager children, who snarled and snapped with excitement at being picked. It would be a sacrifice, since she sent them to play with the Slayer – who would, no doubt, be angry and determined, striking out with a hurting heart. But she could spare two. Three more of her spawning had crept to join her as the sun had sunk beneath the horizon. One she had sent to gather her a source of sustenance. Two would stay to guard the lair – while these two would wreak havoc and sow terror, just the way she liked it.

"Find a place of merriment and music," she suggested. "Try not to kill the Slayer. I have other plans for her. But take as many you like of the rest. Strike swiftly, and kiss deep. There will be blood tonight."

They howled with pleasure – and left at a loping run, eager and willing to serve her will. She smiled after them in the dark, then turned and made her way back into her inner chamber.

The corpse lay where she had left it, the smoke of her sorcery wreathed around it like a shroud. It would not be long now. She had ripped him from his flesh and laughed at his struggles to resist her. He was lost in her wreaking, and soon – very soon – the spell would be done, and he would be hers completely.

"They flutter and they panic, like moths against a flame," she murmured, kneeling next to the corpse and retracing the symbols she had painted on its flesh. "They fight the agony of the flesh when the spirit is already lost to them. Foolish, hopeless physicians. I*am the giver of life and death; in myhands lies the fate of the world."

Her palm splayed out, covering the shimmer of the amulet, and she smiled at the shiver of desperate pain it painted against her skin. The serpent had him tight within its coils and there was no way he could escape. Not now. He was drowning in her power. All she had to do was wait.

He would come.

And then the real work would begin.

Read: Chapter 5