Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland

The Key to Byzantium - VI

Here's the first draft of the next chunk of The Key to Byzantium. I've actually written rather more with the same setting, but I like ending on a cliffhanger and this seems a good way to do it. Let me know what you think, and tell me about anything else that looks wrong, if there aren't too many problems I'll post to archives tomorrow.

This chapter contains spoilers for Angel season 5 and the final episodes of BtVS season 7.


"So that's the situation, General," Jack said, "If Finn and his colleagues are who they say they are, and they're telling the truth, we're going to have a seriously annoyed witch on our hands if we don't meet her tomorrow. I don't know what she could do to us, but I'd prefer not to find out the hard way."

"You'll attend the meeting, Colonel O'Neill," said General Hammond. "On instructions from the White House."

"Which part of the White House?" asked Jack, raising his eyebrows.

"The President. After your earlier call I queried Finn's credentials and got a very quick reply. You and SG-1 are to extend all possible co-operation to Finn, Ms. Rosenberg and her associates provided that doing so does not compromise the SGC's primary mission. If necessary you may draw on our resources and personnel, subject to strict security. You are to report back verbally to me, in the event that I am incapacitated my replacement will be briefed by the President. Any questions?"

"Are you sure that comes from the President?"

"Certain. I've used the direct line to obtain confirmation."

"Do I take orders from her?"

"The instructions say co-operation, Colonel. It's up to you to determine how that works."

"Understood, Sir."

"Good luck, Colonel. I think you may need it."

* * * * *

"I wasn't expecting this to be quite so public," muttered Jack. Beside him Sam murmured "Neither was I, Sir."

"Indeed not, Colonel," said Teal'c. Daniel nodded absent-mindedly and tried to see over the heads of the small crowd, mostly children, gathered at the rim of the Sunnydale crater. Willow Rosenberg stood facing them about fifty feet from the edge, next to a cairn of small rocks and stones, which stood about eight feet high. She wore jeans, a red check shirt, and suede boots, and looked about eighteen. Behind her the murky water that now filled the crater concealed the last remnants of the city.

"Good afternoon," said Willow, her voice amplified by a small PA system, "Welcome to Sunnydale Crater National Park. I'm Willow Rosenberg, a former resident of Sunnydale, and I'm standing in for Ranger Curtis over there, also formerly resident here, who would usually give this talk. He's asked me to explain the significance of this cairn, which was started on the first anniversary of the destruction of Sunnydale. It happens that I was involved in the decision to build it, and he felt that I might be able to give you my perspective on its construction."

"It's believed that about thirty people were killed when Sunnydale was destroyed, and you'll have already seen their memorial near the entrance to the park. After it was built some of us realised that the formal memorial and the lives it commemorates are only the tip of the iceberg. Several generations lived and died in Sunnydale, and without exception their graves and memorials were lost when the city was destroyed. Before them there was a Spanish settlement, also now lost. The city, parish and temple records were destroyed, so there's no way we will ever know all their names. Nevertheless we felt that it would be unfortunate if those who had lived here and their families, friends and loves were completely forgotten."

"When we were talking about this someone mentioned an old Jewish custom that seemed relevant. When you visit a grave you leave a pebble, as a mark of respect and to symbolise memories of the dead. It's not a religious custom as such, more a cultural thing. In the Holy Land there are many graves that are known only because visitors left stones, some carried hundreds of miles, building cairns that have endured for centuries. We decided that it'd be nice if someone did something like that here, and somehow persuaded the Parks Service to agree to let us start it. It's still being added to by visitors and I hope that people will continue to so so for many years to come."

"Okay. That's really about all there is to it, except to say that if any of you had relatives or friends buried here, or would like to add to the memorial, I hope that you'll leave a pebble for them. If you don't have any with you there's a few barrels of them over near the picnic area. I'm just gonna do that myself, and say 'hi' to a few friends that I haven't seen for a while. Meanwhile Ranger Curtis will answer your questions and talk to you about the geology of the area and some theories about the destruction of Sunnydale. Have a nice day, and try not to fall over the edge."

There was a polite ripple of applause. A uniformed park ranger in his thirties took her place at the microphone and she went to the mound and started to leave pebbles, talking softly to herself as she did so. Daniel started to count them, but lost track at fourteen. Eventually she walked round the crowd towards Jack and his team.

She looked at them, seemed to recognise Jack's face, and said "Colonel O'Neill?"

"Miss Rosenberg?"

"That's right. Thanks for coming. They'll be here for a while, if you'd like to come with me we can go somewhere a little quieter to talk. Want to introduce me?"

"Sorry. Major Samantha Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Murray."

"Murray?" said Willow, staring up at Teal'c. "Funny, you don't look Jewish."

"Indeed I am not," said Teal'c.

"In fact I'd have to say you don't feel exactly human."

"I am not. I am a Jaffa."

"Spelled like the city?"

"I guess so," said Jack. "It's complicated. Don't worry, he's a good guy."

"Okay, not a problem. Follow me, it's just a couple of hundred yards." She led them along a path to a stretch of badly cracked road where an old yellow school bus stood inside a metal fence, about thirty feet from the edge of the crater, under a plastic canopy. Several signs identified it as the last vehicle out of Sunnydale. Willow produced a small key and opened the gate, ushered them in, and locked it behind them. The bus doors opened as they approached. "Climb in, it's a good place to talk."

Inside there were the usual shabby seats, and two dark-haired women, a little younger than Willow, who watched SG-1 climb aboard but didn't say anything. Both of them seemed to tense as Teal'c came into view. One of them was holding a powerful-looking crossbow, the other a short sword. Jack remembered Finn's briefing, and guessed they might be Slayers. "Okay," said Willow, "We'll talk in the back. Kennedy, Dana, I'm not expecting any trouble but make sure that nobody tries to listen in."

The girl with the crossbow said "You know that guy's not human?"

"Sure. Don't fret it, sweetie."

"Well don't blame me or Dana if he tries to eat your brains or something."

"There will be no eating of brains," said Teal'c.

"Good to know," said Willow.

"Do you get that a lot?" asked Jack as they settled into the rear seats. Willow sat sideways on one of seats of the row in front of them, her legs in the aisle.

"Brain-eating? From time to time. Blood-sucking's a lot more common. Would any of you like a coke or something?" She pulled out a cooler from under the seat. Daniel and Sam took drinks, Jack said "Maybe later," and Teal'c just shook his head.

"What's this about, Miss Rosenberg?"

"The Knights of Byzantium, of course."

"I don't understand. The way Finn told it, they were all killed a couple of years ago."

"That's what we thought too. We should have known better. We didn't have time to clear up the bodies after Glory killed them, when the police didn't find them we should have guessed that someone else took care of the mess."

"More of them?" asked Jack.

"That'd be my guess," said Willow, "Whoever it was did a really thorough job."

"What makes you think the Knights are still around?"

"About three months ago four of them attacked me in Rio. Caught me a little off-guard, I might have been in trouble if Kennedy hadn't been with me. Since then there's been attacks in Italy, England, and Africa. And they've given up on the medieval weapons, the guys in Rio had shotguns, in Africa it was hunting rifles."

"Anyone hurt?"

"Only on their side."

"What are they after?"

"How much did Riley tell you?"

"He told us about someone called Glory, and we know that the Knights were interested in something called the Key. Oh, and he had someone show us some magic, and told us a little about your organisation."

"Okay, that saves some time. The honest answer is we don't know. Both guys we managed to capture wouldn't talk. One killed himself before we could put on any pressure, the other bit off his own tongue. We're guessing that they want revenge, or they think we have the Key, but revenge seems most likely. Everyone that was attacked was around when Glory killed their army, we think that they've got the idea that we did it."

"And did you?"

"Those guys were human. That's not the way we work."

Jack wondered about that, remembering what he'd heard about Warren Mears and his friends, and said "What about the Key?"

"Umm... that's kinda difficult. Let me put it this way... it was activated by a human sacrifice, and so far as we know it can't be used again, but it's possible that destroying it might activate it. We decided that it was best to keep it well away from the Knights. It's pretty well guarded, you'd have to kill people to get at it."

"What about the monks that originally had it?" asked Daniel.

"You've really been working at this," Willow said approvingly. "Glory killed them, the last of them sent the Key to us magically."

"Okay," said Jack. "We'll leave it at that for now. Where do we come into this?"

"This is where it gets difficult to explain," said Willow, taking a sip from a can of diet cola. "Did Riley tell you much about Slayers?"

Jack shook his head. "He said a little, told us you'd brief us on what we needed to know."

"Okay," said Willow, "As you've probably guessed Dana and Kennedy are Vampire Slayers." Jack could hear the capitals in the way she said it. "That means, amongst other things, that they're fast and strong, heal quickly and have a kinda shared memory, though it usually works through dreams, going back thousands of years." Daniel began to pay much more attention. "They also sometimes get prophetic dreams. Dana is unusually sensitive to that stuff. Around the time that I was attacked she and some others began to have the same dream. Dana's given us the most details." She raised her voice slightly. "Dana, could you come back a second?"

"Yes." Dana walked back along the aisle of the coach, and Sam realised that her eyes and face seemed to be totally expressionless.

"Dana, could you describe the dream please?"

"Yes." Her voice was a monotone. "Something falls from the sky, a thing like a little plane, and smashes in the desert. Soon men and machines come to dig it up, and find bodies. Later another man comes, this man," she pointed to Jack, "and watches what they do. Then there is a battle, somewhere in a city, they're fighting men in metal with tattooed faces, with guns that bend like snakes and fire lightning." Jack realised that she could be describing zats. "Bodies everywhere. Children, men and women. Soon the dark birds come to eat their flesh..." She seemed to shudder and stopped talking, then said something in another language. Startled, Daniel recognised ancient Egyptian: "Drive the demons from our land, kill them or drive them back to the ring. None shall be spared."

"Were you there?" he replied in the same language, "Did you drive the Goa'uld from our world?"

She stared at him, looked past him to Teal'c, and leaped at him screaming.



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