Part IV - things start happening...
See chapter 1 for disclaimers etc.
On AO3: http://archiveofourown.org/works/1995981/chapters/4324434
On TTH: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-30429/MarcusRowland+London+Calling.htm
Marcus L. Rowland
“Have you actually been to bed at all?” Buffy asked Giles, sitting on a corner of his desk and helping herself to a Garibaldi biscuit from a plate that sat next to the cold remains of a cup of tea.
“Well… not as such. I’ve been finalising arrangements and coordinating with the teams in the field.”
“Yeah, I heard about that. You seem to have half the slayers in London thinking the apocalypse is coming. The rest think you’re gearing up for surprise inspections. News flash… they’re getting upset, you might want to turn it down a notch or two.”
“I keep thinking there’s something we’re missing.”
“Maybe, but you’re not gonna find it if you’re too tired to think properly.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Get to bed for a few hours, Dawn and I will hold things down.”
“Bed. Or do you want me to carry you and tuck you in?”
“Damn. All right, but for goodness sake call me if there’s any sign of Ethan.”
“Find anything interesting?” asked Darcy.
Jane looked up from the table of old ornaments she was examining, and said “I found some astronomy magazines on the book table, but they’re way out of date. Apart from that, there are some old watches and a sextant, but they’re probably not very accurate.”
“They’re there to look nice, if you need scientific accuracy get something electronic.”
“I guess. I’ve found a couple of things my mother might like, so this isn’t a complete waste of time.”
“I’m kinda enjoying myself,” said Darcy, “and I think Thor’s loving it.”
“I think Thor thinks the boats are quaint,” said Jane, gesturing towards the barges and narrow-boats moored along the canal. “I don’t think he realises just how cramped they’d be if he tried to live in one.”
“We’ll get him aboard Ian’s boat later, by the time he’s hit his head a couple of times he’ll get the idea. We’d better get back to the guys, make sure that Thor isn’t breaking anything.”
“I’ll tell him you said that.”
“Go ahead, you won’t be telling him anything he doesn’t know.”
Jane paid for an old Russian pilot’s watch with a half-dozen dials, then she and Darcy walked back along the canal-side, dodging a group of children running towards some rides and a bouncy castle. A narrow-boat festooned with flags chugged along the canal and into the triangular basin that was the centre of the event; over loudspeakers an unseen master of ceremonies gave its name and said something about its history as it circled a small island then headed west along the Grand Union Canal.
“It’s certainly busy enough,” said Jane. “I guess Ian’s charity must be doing well. Where are they anyway?”
“By that stand,” said Darcy, pointing with her walking stick. She didn’t really need it any more, but there were a few uneven patches around the canal and she didn’t want to take any chances.
“These pieces of sausage are excellent,” said Thor, stuffing another handful into his mouth. “But why are they so small?”
“Actually, they’re samples,” said Ian. “You’re supposed to taste them and buy packs of the ones you like.”
“They are all good,” said Thor, smiling at the woman in charge of the table. “It is difficult to choose.”
“That’s all right,” she said. “They’re there to be eaten. Though it’d be nice to have some left for our other customers, of course. Have a think about it while you’re enjoying yourself, and come back and get some later. Or order them on line, we’ve got a web site, and a lot more recipes that we couldn’t bring today.”
“I’ll help you with an order,” said Darcy, smiling apologetically at the vendor, “and make sure you don’t buy so many we have to get another fridge.”
“There’s a sausage of the week club if you’re interested, we send members a packet every week, a different flavour every time.”
“Cool. Okay, we’re definitely coming back here, but I want to see the boats and things first.”
“And then we can get a proper meal and some beer,” said Ian.
“Works for me,” said Jane.
The phone rang just after one.
“Doctor Giles, several intense magical sources have just appeared in central London.”
“Giles is taking a break,” said Buffy, “Dawn and I are holding down his desk for now. Let me just switch to speaker… okay, what have you got?”
“Several magical sources in the Paddington area. Someone from the coven is emailing me a map, I’ll copy it to you… We’ve got five sources. The first one was near the BBC studios in Maida Vale, followed a minute or so later by another close to Edgware Road Station. A minute after that, Durham Terrace in Bayswater, then Hamilton Close, St. John’s Wood. Finally, Brook Mews near Lancaster Gate tube station. The locations form a rough circle about a mile across.”
“Dawn, any thoughts?”
Dawn looked up from her iPad and said “Try linking them in the order they activated, first to last.”
“Yes… yes, that’s definitely got to mean something. The lines form a pentacle.”
“Not exactly subtle. What’s at the centre of the pentacle? Looks like a fork in a river? Can’t make it out at this scale.”
“The canal basin at Little Venice. That’s a little north of Paddington Station.”
Buffy pulled on her leather jacket and slung a long leather case over her shoulder. “Is anything happening there today?”
“Just a moment… Yes, there’s some sort of canal festival there. The Canalway Cavalcade.”
“Okay, get teams to each point of the pentacle, see if you can find the sources of the magic, but watch out for traps. We’ll head for the canal basin.”
“I’ll let you know if there are any developments.”
Thor downed his fifth pint of Theakston’s Old Peculiar and said “Another!”
“Are you sure?” asked Darcy. “That stuff’s stronger than the beer we got in Puente Antiguo.”
“It is mild compared to the ales of Asgard. Or even the makers of boilers I drank in your land.”
“Your funeral. This stuff sneaks up on you.” She waved to Ian, who was queuing in front of the beer tent, and shouted “make that three more!”
“Three?” said Jane.
“Another for me, of course.”
“I am not nursing you through another hangover.”
“I’m a big girl, I’ll look after myself.” She turned to Thor and added “You did a good job with the weather, big guy.”
“There was little need,” said Thor. “I began a weather working, then sensed that another had the matter in hand, and let it be.”
“Someone was controlling the weather?” asked Jane.
“What of it? Some wizard, perhaps, or one of the mutants of which your Bugle speaks. It is no great matter.”
“It would be fascinating to study the process.”
Thor looked distracted for a moment, then said “You may yet get that chance. I sense another working beginning.”
“Someone modifying the weather again?”
“Mayhap… but why?”
“Actually,” said Ian, “it does look a little choppy out there.” He pointed to the canal basin, where dozens of boats were rocking gently at their moorings. “The water ought to be calm in this weather.” There were waves a few inches high, appearing and disappearing randomly, stronger than the ripples raised by the boats.
“It’s a canal,” said Jane, “the water isn’t flowing anywhere much, and there’s no wind, why would there be waves?”
“If I’m to die in this car,” said Giles, “I promise you that I will come back and haunt you. That was a red light, Dawn!”
“It was changing,” said Dawn, swerving her Mini Countryman across two lanes.
“And to think,” said Buffy, “he used to complain about my driving. I was never this bad!”
“You mean you were never this good.”
“Watch out for that truck!”
Dawn deftly avoided it and swerved around two roundabouts then tried to turn onto a side street, realised that it was closed to traffic, and took the next turn instead. “Okay, the canal basin’s on the left, you two bail, I’ll park and catch up with you.” She screeched to a halt, and Buffy and Giles climbed out.
“Okay,” said Buffy, “can’t see anything too weird. Let’s get down there.” They crossed a small terrace and went down steps to a lawn; to their right was a large plastic pool, thirty feet wide and a few inches deep, in which children were playing inside giant inflatable plastic bubbles, to their left a juggler was entertaining a small crowd. “Huh, no chainsaws.”
“Not everyone has your talents.”
“No, but… ooh, over there, ice cream!”
“We’re not here for that,” said Giles. “I can feel something happening… but where is the bastard?”
“Well,” said an amplified voice, “we don’t usually have water as choppy as this for the cavalcade, there may be a short delay before the next boat takes the circuit.”
“That’s gotta be it,” said Buffy. “It’ll be Ethan, using one of the sea gods.”
“Someone has bespelled the waters,” said Thor. “Mayhap they mean some harm to yon boats.”
“It seems a little unlikely,” said Jane. “Why bother?”
“It smacks of mischief, if my brother were alive he would be the first I would suspect.”
“You know you guys were worshipped as gods,” said Darcy, “maybe it’s someone who worshipped him, trying to cause trouble.”
“Mayhap.” He concentrated for a moment, and several miles away Mjolnir flew from the bench in Jane’s roof garden where he had left it, and hurtled high across the city. “The waves are getting higher, before long they will be over the banks. You must seek higher ground. I will search for the sorcerer.”
“Okay,” said Darcy. “C’mon Jane, Ian, let’s get out of Dodge before there’s a stampede.”
“All right,” said Jane, “We haven’t got any instruments with us anyway, we can’t really observe the phenomena.”
Someone shouted, and they looked towards the water, where the waves were raging higher and racing around the canal basin, barges rocking and tugging at their moorings, and a strong wind was rising.
Dawn found a parking space and ran back towards the canal. People were starting to retreat from the water, and as she went down the steps from street level she dodged past a group of tourists only to cannon into “Ian?”
“Bloody hell, Dawn Summers!”
“Friend of yours?” asked Darcy.
“We used to date,” said Dawn.
“We need to get out of here,” said Ian, looking uncomfortable, “there’s something weird happening.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Dawn, “kinda why I’m here. Catch you later!” She ran on towards the canal.
“Wait a minute,” said Darcy, “was that your psycho ex from Cambridge, the one who believed in magic and told horror stories about her mad sister and California?”
“You never said she was that attractive.”
Darcy punched him in the arm, moderately hard, and said “Asshole.”
“He’s definitely unleashed one of the water gods,” shouted Giles, “Poseidon or Neptune.” He put his hands to his temples for a moment, and added “Whatever he’s doing, he’s put a lot of power into the spell, people could get hurt.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know… there’s something else going on, really powerful, it’s confusing everything.”
“You mean like that?” She pointed left to an area with tables and chairs, where a tall blond man was standing, one hand raised. Something plummeted from the sky into his hand, and his casual clothes transformed into armour and a rippling cloak. A bolt of lightning flashed down from the sky to the hammer he was holding. He strode towards the water’s edge and began to throw bolts of lightning into the water.
“Oh, bloody hell. Yes, that would probably do it.”
“What the hell is that asshole doing?” shouted Dawn, finally catching up with them.
“That’s not an asshole, it’s Thor,” said Buffy, almost squealing with excitement. “The Thor, the Avenger.”
“He’s making things worse!”
“Okay, let’s go talk to him.”
As Ian led Darcy and Jane towards the stairs to the street, Darcy grabbed his arm and said “Hold it, I don’t like the look of that.”
“Those guys.” She pointed to a group of men trying to get down the stairs against the movement of the crowd. All wore the same grey outfits, like a cross between motorcycle clothing and body armour, with bulky-looking boots and equipment belts and webbing, and open-face helmets with microphones. “Last time I saw that uniform, SHIELD agents were wearing it.”
One of the men pointed at them, and the group began to work towards them.
“I thought SHIELD was…” Ian began, then the penny dropped. “Fuck, head back towards Thor!”
“Come on, Jane!” Darcy grabbed Jane’s arm and pulled her with her, and they began to run back the way they’d come.
“You have to stop!” shouted Giles, “You’re making the storm worse!”
“Stay back, I will destroy this evil magic,” Thor said, ignoring Giles’ request.
“Hey Thor, nice hammer!” shouted Buffy, reaching into the case on her shoulder and pulling out a gleaming red metal axe, the misnamed Slayer Scythe. “Mine’s sharper!”
Thor turned towards her, lightning still flashing from Mjolnir. “Small woman, do you challenge Thor?”
“Ixnay on the allsmay!” said Dawn.
Buffy smiled, ducked and rolled under the lightning, and smashed the flat of the scythe against Thor’s ass. He looked down, confused, and the lightning stopped.
“That will not hurt me, foolish woman.”
“Want to bet?” Buffy casually swung the axe through a steel railing, leaving mirror-sharp cut ends. “This weapon was made to kill gods. Want me to use it on you?”
“What do you want, woman?”
“Just listen to us. This isn’t going to stop the waves. Tell him, Dawn.”
“Someone’s causing this by invoking a water god, Neptune or Poseidon.”
“Poseidon,” said Giles, “they found the Neptune statue at Edgware Road.”
“Okay, Poseidon. He’s a god of the sea, and he hates the lightning god of his pantheon. You’re just making him angrier.”
“Then how do we stop this?”
“Ideally a ritual sacrifice, but…”
Darcy, Jane and Ian ran back, chased by the uniformed men.
“It’s Hydra,” shouted Darcy, “I think they’re after Jane.”
Thor bellowed with rage and ran towards them, raising Mjolnir and throwing it at the nearest agent. He went down hard, sliding back nearly twenty feet,
“Hydra?” said Buffy. Something feral and ancient showed in her eyes.
“Yeah.” said Dawn.
“Get to cover.” Buffy began to spin the Scythe and ran towards them, passing Ian, Jane, and Darcy.
“Ian, over here,” shouted Dawn, “use the tables for cover.” She threw one of the metal tables on its side and ducked down behind it.
“Take shelter,” said Thor, catching Mjolnir and throwing it again, while Buffy took on two of the Hydra agents and knocked weapons out of their hands as fast as they drew them, and the remaining members of the crowd scurried for shelter or panicked.
Giles grabbed a red tomato-shaped sauce bottle from one of the tables and lobbed it towards the agents, shouted “Grenade!” then hastily ducked for cover, as did two Hydra agents.
“No guns so far,” said Dawn. “What the hell are they playing at?”
“They’re after Jane, I think,” said Darcy, “they must want her alive.”
“Okay. By the way, I’m Dawn Summers, this is Giles, and that’s my sister Buffy with the axe.”
Mjolnir flew back to Thor’s hand, clipping another Hydra agent’s helmet on the way back, and lightning flashed out at the last men standing. In a moment they weren’t.
“Knew that already,” Dawn and Darcy said almost in unison, then smiled at each other. Ian suddenly began to feel very worried.
“There have to be more of them around,” said Jane, “that small a group didn’t stand a chance against Thor.”
“They’re using a wizard as a distraction,” said Dawn, “must have thought you’d separate from Thor. Where is fucking Ethan anyway?”
“I know you now,” said Thor, shouldering Mjolnir. “You are the vampyrjeger, the vampire hunter, I should have recognised the weapon. My apologies.”
“This isn’t over,” said Buffy, making sure that none of the Hydra agents would be regaining consciousness any time soon, “the storm’s getting worse and there are probably more of these assholes around.” By now several boats had broken from their moorings, and two had collided. One of them was starting to sink.
“Jane!” said Thor, and raced back to the tables.
“We’re OK,” Darcy shouted over the howling of the wind. “Worry about the storm, not us!”
“We need to find Ethan and smash the Poseidon statue, or find some other way to appease Poseidon,” said Giles, listening to someone over his phone.
“What about the other statues?” asked Dawn.
“Accounted for, apart from the statue of Diana, one at each point of the pentacle. Ethan messed up the concealment spell, it ought to have stopped us noticing the invocation of Poseidon. Instead it was like setting off flares to tell us he was here.”
“That doesn’t sound like Ethan,” said Dawn. “When did he ever mess up like that?”
“Who is this Ethan?” asked Thor, “a wizard?”
“A chaos mage.”
Thor looked grave. “The magic of chaos can be very powerful.”
“We’d noticed,” said Giles.
“We need a sacrifice,” said Dawn. “A horse.”
“Where the hell do we get a horse in the middle of London?” asked Buffy. “Also, ewww!”
“Doesn’t necessarily have to be a real one, a good symbolic representation would do.”
“Hey,” said Darcy, “would a toy do? There were a couple of My Little Ponies on one of the tables over there.” She pointed to the vendor tables on the other side of the canal.
“The carousel,” shouted Jane, “there were horses on that!”
“I will fetch one,” said Thor, throwing Mjolnir into the air and flying behind it. He landed out of sight, a few hundred feet away.
“Hope he doesn’t break it,” said Giles, “we need it intact or it won’t be a valid sacrifice.”
“We’d better get further back from the water,” said Dawn, “the waves are going to be washing across this bank soon.”
“Head towards the beer tent,” said Ian, “it’s a couple of feet higher.”
Thor plummeted back down, a white carousel horse on his shoulder. “The owner of this beast was unhappy. We will have to pay for it.”
“I’ll take care of that later,” said Giles. “Remind me of the ritual, Dawn.”
“The usual. Invoke the name, ask for his help, praise him, tell him what you want, and sacrifice the horse in his name.”
He turned to Darcy and said “Might I borrow your cane?”
“I guess so, my ankle’s not too bad now.”
Giles used the cane to mark a circle around the horse in the muddy ground, added Poseidon’s name in Greek, ‘Ποσειδῶν,’ and said “I’ll begin with Homer’s hymn to Poseidon then improvise. When I lower my hand decapitate the horse, then throw both parts into the canal.” He held up his hand and began to chant in Greek:
“I sing of Poseidon, the great god, mover of the earth and fruitless sea, god of the deep who is also lord of Helicon and wide Aegea. A two-fold office the gods allotted you, O Shaker of the Earth, to be a tamer of horses and a saviour of ships!”
“Hail, Poseidon, Holder of the Earth, dark-haired lord! O blessed one, be kindly in heart and help those who voyage in ships!”
“Great Poseidon, I pray the grace of your help to end this storm, and offer this gift of a horse, for you are their master.”
He sliced down with his hand, and Buffy swung the scythe; then she and Thor heaved the remains of the horse into the canal as Giles shouted:
“So mote it be! Long live Poseidon, the god of the sea!”
There was a final gust of wind, then the waves began to subside as the horse went under. Giles caught his breath for a moment, then said “We need to find Ethan quickly, or he might be able to persuade Poseidon that wasn’t a valid sacrifice.”
“I sense something,” said Thor. “Now that the storm has passed… there, on yon island!” He pointed out to the small island the boats had circled.
“That’s a bird sanctuary,” said Ian, “nobody ought to be there.”
Dawn groped in her bag, found a stick of eye liner, and quickly drew an eye on the back of each hand, then covered her eyes with her hands. After a moment the eyes she’d drawn glowed bright green, and she said “He’s there, under the tree on the left.”
“Give me a lift?” asked Buffy.
“Aye!” Thor grabbed her by the waist and they hurtled into the air, landing with a thump on the island.
“The tree to the left, Buffy,” shouted Dawn. “No, your left. Thor, down just a bit…” There was a flash of lightning, then another. “Wow, that’s gotta hurt.”
On the island Buffy smashed something with the flat of the scythe, and suddenly they could see someone lying there.
“That’s a neat trick with the eyes,” said Darcy.
“I got the idea from Doctor Who,” said Dawn, “I could probably get better results if they were tattooed, but I only use that spell a couple of times a year.”
As they were talking a motorboat roared along the canal and into one of the gaps left by the boats that had broken free, and more uniformed men ran ashore.
“Fuck,” said Darcy.
“Give me a hand,” said Ian, and sprinted for the serving tables, where a few onlookers were still trying to work out what was going on. Darcy and Jane followed him, while Dawn helped Giles to his feet.
“What’s the plan?” asked Darcy.
“Donkey Kong!” Ian heaved at the chocks securing a stack of barrels, and some of them began to roll down the gentle slope towards the Hydra agents. He ran behind one that was refusing to roll and kicked it to start it moving, and was promptly knocked down by the next. Darcy and Jane pushed others, trying to aim them at gaps between the tables.
“You idiots,” shouted one of the onlookers, “those took days to settle.”
“Don’t blame us,” shouted Darcy, “blame fucking Hydra!”
“Hydra, is it? Right then…” One man grabbed a long spit rod from the barbecue, others cooking mallets, serving trays, and other improvised weapons.
Dawn grabbed one of the trays and flung it like a Frisbee; it bounced off one of the tables and ended up in a bush. “Captain America makes that look so easy.”
“I know,” said Darcy. “Of course he’s got muscles on his muscles. Almost as buff as Thor.”
“Someone want to give me a hand?” asked Ian, “I’m in pain here.”
“Did he use that line about his sofa-bed being more comfortable when it’s opened?” asked Dawn.
“Lame, isn’t it,” said Darcy, grabbing Ian’s arm and helping him up with a distinct lack of sympathy.
By now the Hydra agents were firing guns with glowing blue barrels. Blobs of blue liquid hung in the air then fell to the ground a few yards in front of Giles. Dawn glanced at him and wasn’t surprised to see him kneeling, his hands straining as though he was pushing at something invisible. She felt for the magic and added her own power to it. The next shot bounced back into the face of the man that fired it.
There was a clap of thunder, and the Hydra speedboat began to sink, Mjolnir-sized holes in its hull and engine. Then Thor and Buffy were in amongst the agents. Moments later the fight was over.
“Where’s Ethan?” said Giles, trying to stop his hands from shaking.
“He’s out of it,” said Buffy, supporting him. “He wouldn’t stop chanting, Thor had to keep zapping him with lightning. He’s still alive, but I’m not sure he’ll stay that way.”
“What the hell was he thinking of? I can understand wanting a little chaos, but Hydra’s about as far from that as you can get. They’re fucking Nazis, for Christ’s sake.”
“They must have had some sort of hold on him,” said Buffy, trying to comfort him. “Maybe that’s why he screwed up so badly.”
“Maybe,” said Giles, less than convinced.
“There’s two kids floating on the canal in those bubbles,” said Dawn, “I hope someone’s going to rescue them.”
Police cars began to arrive, and the next few hours were filled with explanations and post-battle cleanup. Miraculously nobody other than Ethan and the Hydra agents was badly hurt, and they were soon evacuated under police guard.
“Might be an idea if you don’t go home until the police have checked it,” suggested Dawn.
“Oh great,” said Darcy, “what do you suggest?”
“I have guest rooms at my house in Bath,” said Giles, “you’re welcome to use them.”
“What if Hydra know where you live?”
“I’m sure they do,” said Buffy, “we were all on their death list. But we’re still here, and so far we’re okay.”
“It works for me,” said Jane. “And with Thor to look after us, I think we’ll probably be pretty safe.”
Note: I wanted Thor to use the Norse equivalent of Buffy’s title and ran into problems, since there is no precise equivalent of vampires in Norse mythology. “Vampyrjeger” is the closest I could get, modern Norwegian for “vampire hunter.” It’s the title that is generally used when describing Buffy in the Norwegian translation of the show. Just to confuse things, the show’s actual title is “Buffy, Vampyrenes Skrekk,” which translates literally as “Buffy, the Terror of Vampires.”
The first two paragraphs of the Hymn to Poseidon are genuine Homer, from a 1914 translation, the third is my own contribution, the last comes from a Wicca chant to invoke Poseidon I found on line.
I’m not a linguist - many thanks to members of the Livejournal Linguaphiles community for their help in getting these things right, and in persuading me that it would better not to put the entire verse into Google-translated Greek.
There really is a Canalway Cavalcade every year, pretty much as described (apart from the events I’ve added for this story). If you happen to be in London on the weekend of the first Monday in May it’s worth a visit. Here's a picture I took this year at roughly the time the action starts in this chapter:
Comments please before I post to archives.
Note - I've made a couple of small changes in this chapter to tie in more closely with something that will be in the next.