Robin had just finished checking their horses, and had been headed out of the nearby stable as a small figure exited the inn and stood quietly in the night air for a moment. His curiosity peaked as the figure moved quickly past him with the grace and stealth of a hunter looking for its prey, as he caught a glimpse of familiar blonde hair and lightly tanned skin beneath the hood of the cloak drawn tight around the small body.
Before he could lose sight of Buffy, Robin began to follow her, amazed at her ability to move so quickly and so quietly. He caught up to her as she came to a stop at the small village graveyard, standing tightly at the foot of the just covered grave. He hung back, wondering what on earth she was doing in the middle of a graveyard at night, when she spoke out loud.
"Who ever is back there, you'd better show yourself. I want to know who played stupid and followed me."
Caught, Robin stepped forward, a questioning look on his face. "Buffy? What are you doing out here?"
Buffy seemed to relax, but just slightly. "Robin. Why were you following me? You shouldn't be out here."
"Neither should you," he pointed out, stepping closer to her. "I saw you step outside and decided to make sure you were all right. You are all right, aren't you? Nothing happened between you and Angel?"
At the thought of just what had happened minutes ago in Angel's bed, Buffy blushed. "No, nothing was wrong. I just needed to step outside and take a quick walk. You can go on back to the inn. I'll follow shortly."
Robin began to shake his head, but stopped as a muffled crunch and a barely audible shifting came to his ears. Buffy seemed to have heard it too, because she stilled, even more tense than she'd been before. "Robin go on back to the inn now."
"Buffy? What is it? Do you know what that sound wa. . . " Robin broke off as the man they had just recently buried rose from the grave, dirt hanging from hair that framed a horribly disfigured face. The creature gave a growl and lunged toward Buffy, who was turned slightly away from him. Acting on instinct, Robin shoved Buffy away, and was consequently slammed to the ground by supernatural speed and force.
"Dumb men, always trying to save the girl," he thought he heard Buffy mutter, but by then, he was too involved in trying to keep the sharp fangs of the creature away from his straining neck. And then his attacker seemed to dissipate in a cloud of dust that fell on top of him and forced him to sputter and cough. Looking up at Buffy he gaped at the image she gave. Strong and powerful and just slightly upset. In her hand was a foot of sharpened wood.
"Damn, I really wanted to wail on him." Buffy paused and looked down at Robin, who hadn't moved. "Come on. We better go back to the inn. Angel will start to worry." She offered him an extended hand, which he took, and she pulled him to his feet.
Grasping it, Robin let her help him to his feet, amazed at the strength in her grip. "For some reason, I think you know what really just happened."
Buffy spared him a sideways glance as she headed back to the inn, Robin hurrying to stay beside her. "Oh, you're a quick one." She paused then shook her head. "Sorry. But I didn't get to release my tension on that guy back there. Yeah Robin. I know what just happened."
"So. Are you going to explain? I gave you my trust, and this isn't exactly holding that trust up."
"I'll tell you, but not here. Tell you what. Get the others and bring them to my room. Angel and I will do our best to explain."
"Angel, you'd better get dressed," Buffy said as she slipped into their room. He turned from the small window, his lean framed clothed only with the buckskin pants. "Robin followed me to the grave and got attacked."
Angel had his shirt on in moments. "Is he all right?"
"He's fine, but he's asking questions. I told him to bring the others here." At that moment, there was a sharp rap at the wooden door, and Angel moved to answer it. Opening the door, he revealed a sleepy eyed Little John with Tuck and Marion and a suspicious Robin. Silently, he stepped aside, opening the door as far as it would go as the group stepped in.
Everyone was silent as they found places to sit or lean. Angel moved across the room to stand beside Buffy at her place by the window. Little John shut the door and leaned against it, giving a great yawn.
Tuck headed for the only chair in the room and sat down heavily. Marion perched at the foot of the hastily made bed, leaning an elbow on the end frame and leaning her head against her hand. Robin stood in the center of the dimly lit room, arms crossed against his chest.
Marion was the first to speak. "All right. What was so important that Robin had to drag us from bed?"
All eyes fell on Robin. He nodded toward Buffy. "I found her at the grave tonight. While we were talking, the body climbed from the grave, as alive as you or me." Robin missed the looks that Buffy and Angel exchanged. "His face was horribly disfigured and then he attacked me, and tried to bite my neck."
Buffy made a noise of disagreement, bringing everyone's gaze to her. "First off, he tried to attack me, not you. You just decided to play hero. Secondly, that guy was definitely dead."
"What do you mean? He was moving."
Buffy shook her head. "He definitely didn't have a heartbeat."
"How do you know all this?" asked Little John.
Buffy faltered. Angel laid a reassuring hand against the small of her back, supporting her. She knew if she needed him, he'd be there. "I've . . . We've had experience with things like them before."
Angel spoke then, realizing that the criticism in each of their eyes was actually getting to her. Buffy was out of her world and unsure of herself. She respected these peace-keepers, even after knowing them for just a day, and didn't want their distrust. "Buffy and I fight demons."
"And that man we buried was a demon?" asked Tuck.
"Yes. Well, he was a vampire. A bloodsucking demon that sets up shop in the body of his victim. When you see one, it isn't the person you're seeing but the thing that killed it."
"I know I'm going to regret this, but how?" asked Marion.
"Well a vampire has to suck your blood, and then you have to suck theirs. Basically they'll just kill you."
Robin was looking less suspicious, and the other three seemed to believe them even though they hadn't seen it. Buffy realized that this was a more open-minded time that believed more in the supernatural. Robin spoke. "All right, I can accept that. But all that doesn't explain the strength I felt in your grip when you helped me up."
Buffy blushed faintly. "Angel and I don't do this as an extracurricular activity. Call it fate if you want, but this is what we spend our lives doing. So we have some accelerated abilities to even the score against the undead."
"So why are you here?" asked Tuck.
"To help," answered Buffy. "We didn't come knowing this, but you do need it. You know the land and the people. We know how to fight. And if this Conakur is the threat my instincts are telling me he is, you're going to need it."
"He's right Robin," said Marion. "They know what we're up against."
Robin conceded the point. "All right then. What is that we're up against with this Conakur?"
Everyone seemed to look to Buffy for the answer. She shrugged. "Don't look at me. I'm more into the physical."
Angel spoke, a small grin at Buffy's antics allowed to cross his features. "I've seen the name before, but I can't tell you what exactly he is known for."
"That helps," murmured Marion.
"All right. So we need to find out what exactly this guy does and what he is up to. Tuck?"
Tuck was silent for a moment after Robin's inquiry. "If this Conakur is a demon as you two seem to think he is, I have a friend who was in the ministry with me in my early days who might be of some help. He was always immersed in studies of the occult. He lives somewhere in London."
"So we go see him." Little John's answer was short and logical.
"We can't leave the area unprotected Little John. If he's going to be causing problems for the villagers. . . "Robin trailed off.
Buffy and Angel held an entire conversation with their eyes in seconds. It was Buffy who answered. "You're right Robin, but if we're going to find out about him, we're going to have to act fast." Buffy was suddenly in what Xander called "Slayer mode". "Angel, from what you can remember, was he bad?" Angel nodded in response. "All right then. Tuck, do you know where this friend of yours is in London?"
"I'm sorry. No."
"Then you and Little John stay here. Marion, Robin, Angel and I will go to London and try to find this friend of yours."
"We need fighters to go Little John. But we also need at least one really strong fighter to stay behind."
Little John blushed.
"All right then. We'll need to go to the compound first though. We'll meet in the stables at dawn." Robin waited for everyone's agreement and then opened the door to leave.
Once everyone was gone, Buffy turned to Angel and slipped into his embrace. They'd made it to the bed when Angel spoke. "Buff, its going to be a hard ride tomorrow. We'll need our rest."
"That's why I thank god that we have those certain accelerated abilities, like going without sleep for days at a time." She grinned up at him, and Angel groaned, crushing his lips to hers.
"Do we have everything?" asked Buffy. The group was standing in the center of Robin's forest compound, beside the four horses.
"Yes. Ready?" asked Robin.
Everyone nodded their response. Buffy turned to Little John and Tuck, handing them each a stake. "Remember what I told you about vampires. Be careful."
Tuck gave her a gentle smile. "We will Buffy. Safe journey."
Buffy turned to find Marion and Robin already mounted. Angel was waiting beside her horse. Walking to him, they kissed gently before Angel lifted her into her saddle.
A few days later.
Buffy shifted uncomfortably in her saddle as Angel dismounted and came to help her dismount. As his arms reached up to grab her waist, she placed her hands on his shoulders, groaning in pain as she straightened fully. "Ugh. I'll be glad when this damn trip is over."
"Ya think?" She threw him a look. "Just remind me of this, and I'll never make fun of Giles' car again."
Angel chuckled. "I highly doubt that Buffy."
"I know, but right now, I'm in pain. Can you blame me?"
Angel chuckled and shook his head, placing an arm around her waist as he led her to where Marion and Robin were already setting up for the night. Helping her to sit he headed back to the horses, getting their sleeping bundles.
Robin rested one arm casually on his bent knee, staring into the fire. "We're only half a day's ride. We'll get into London tomorrow afternoon."
"Then we find this Thomas guy."
"I think this is the place," said Angel. He and the others stopped in the narrow dirt street, drawing their cloaks tighter around them as they received curious stares. The house in front of them was small, but well kept, making it look out of place near the shabby buildings around them.
Robin nodded and knocked on the door. Soon, a young girl who looked to be 16 or so, opened it, dressed in a piecemeal outfit of various clean clothes. "May I help you?"
"We're looking for a Father Thomas."
The girl's expression immediately got wary, and she seemed to study each of them. "I'm sorry, but . . ."
"Mira? Who is at the door?" A tall gentleman in dark breeches and a white cotton shirt came to the doorway. His hair was dark and the lines on his face, belied his age by years. When he saw the four travelers, he stopped, placing a hand on the young brunette's shoulder. "Can we help you with something?"
"Father Thomas?" asked Marion. "We're friends of Friar Tuck. We need your help."
At the mention of Tuck's name, Thomas stepped aside, motioning them in. "Come in, quickly." Leading them to a small room, he motioned for them to sit. "Mira, drinks for the travelers. So, you are friends of Tuck's? How is he doing? And my manners, I apologize. Yes, I am Father Thomas, and Mira is my young ward."
"I am Robin Hood. This is Marion. And friends of ours, Angel and Buffy."
Buffy was busy surveying the area. The room was lined with crude shelves that were filled with leather bound books, that had to be first editions. The table they were sitting at was clean, but a pile of herbs and a mortar and pestle were placed at one end. And in the shadows of the corners, she could make out the outline of wooden quarterstaffs and a crossbow. Her gaze turned back to Mira.
With the experience of a person sizing up another, she studied the young girl. She was physically fit, with long dark hair pulled into a long braid. As she moved around the room, giving them each a mug of water, she moved with an easy grace and agility.
Buffy's gaze now turned to Father Thomas, who she found was studying her with the same intent, she'd previously had on Mira.
"Who are you?"
It was a challenge, and Buffy recognized it as one. With a glance at Angel, who gave a slight nod, she answered with a question of her own. "You're a Watcher, aren't you?"
There was a clatter as Mira dropped the wooden tray she'd been holding.
Thomas tilted his head to the side, obviously trying to decide how to respond. "I am. Mira is a preparatory Slayer. And you my dear, are the Slayer. Am I right?"
Buffy nodded, ignoring the confused looks of Robin and Marion. "I am."
"I'd heard that the present one was in the Holy Lands. Has she moved on then?"
Buffy gave a look to Angel who spoke for her. "Buffy wouldn't be the Slayer if she hadn't."
"Yes, of course. My dear. Who is your Watcher?"
"Um, he's not..."
"I'm acting as her Watcher for now. Her first Watcher was killed."
Which was true of course, Merrick had been her first Watcher, and he had been killed by Lothos a week before the gym incident.
"Would one of you like to explain?"
Father Thomas, the only official Watcher, spoke. "Robin, Marion, I'm sorry for our rudeness, it is just very rare to come across an official Slayer."
"What is this slayer?" asked Marion.
Father Thomas smiled. "The Slayer is the one girl in all the world chosen to protect us from evil, the one person with the strength and skill to stop the vampires and hunt them where they gather. Your friend Buffy here seems to be this generation's."
Buffy blushed. "Yes well, as to why we came. . ."
"Yes my dear, why have you come here?"
"A warlord called Conakur."
Father Thomas stilled, then moved thoughtfully toward the shelf of books. "The name seems quite familiar, but I can not come up with the background off hand. Is this a pressing problem?"
Robin nodded. "Unfortunately, he has begun to threaten the villages near Sherwood and Nottingham. He was beginning to make his presence known with mounted warriors."
Father Thomas returned to the table, books piled in his arms, which Mira quickly eased him of. "Well, time for what I was trained for. Research." He leveled a gaze on Buffy then though, making no move to open the books. "First though, I would like to know how it is that the Slayer is working with others, even those with the remarkable abilities of Robin Hood and Lady Marion." He turned to Angel. "And why it is that acting as Watcher, you both allow this and the closeness you two share."
Buffy looked wide-eyed at Angel, unsure how to take this. She’d figured since Father Thomas hadn’t said anything that he wasn’t that interested. She’d found him rather like Giles, and had hoped that the past, er, well future, wouldn’t be filled with just the imbecilic members of the Council that she’d grown to know and loathe. Her and
Angel exchanged looks, a billion things being communicated in just once glance.
With renewed strength and purpose, and Angel’s hand in hers, Buffy once again faced the waiting Watcher. "Angel is not my Watcher, and the Slayer is still alive in the Holy Lands." Buffy continued before anything could be said. "Yes, I am the Slayer, but the one from 1999, a good 800 years into the future."
Angel took up the tale. "We were walking one night and suddenly found ourselves in your time, summoned here by a friend of yours Robin, Olwyn. He told us that you would need our help. That is why we are working with them, sir."
Father Thomas found his voice. "So the Slayer is allowed more than her Watcher to rely on then in the future?"
"Not exactly," said Buffy, " But the Council puts up with me, only because I’ve survived 3 years on the Hellmouth. Though they recently fired my Watcher for caring for me like a daughter."
The priest gave something that sounded suspiciously like a choked back laugh, and a smile appeared on his face. "It sounds as if the Council has not changed in the future years. Though it does my heart good to know that there will be one that breaks with tradition. I’m rather of an outcast from the Council for my outlandish ideas that the Slayer should not work alone; which is why I was given Mira to train as she is one of the last in the succession line to become the Slayer. It is a pleasure to meet you, and you as well Angel."
Angel nodded. "You realize, of course, that nothing we do here can be put into the Diaries. It could drastically effect the future."
"Of course. Of course. So, research then?"
Buffy and Angel both nodded, reaching for one of the old tomes, and immersing themselves in the pages. Robin and Marion exchanged silent glances, not having said anything during the exchange, and then simultaneously reached for their own books.
Buffy and Angel sat at Father’s table once more, this time in a planning session with Robin and Marion. They had found reference to Conakur, after long hours of looking through the books supplied to them. What they had found had shocked them. Conakur was a true demon, with no mortal blood tainting him, and one from the seventh ring of
Hell. He somehow had managed to escape, though the specifics on that were sketchy at best. They knew to fear him. Now they just needed to find him.
"Buffy?" Father Thomas’s voice interrupted her quiet listening to the other three plan out how to best find him. Buffy looked up, sending him a questioning glance. "Do you think it would be possible to speak with my young charge?"
Buffy raised an eyebrow. "I do not think the Council of this time would want me impressing on her."
"It is not the Council I ultimately answer to. It is God’s. And she is one of his children. One of the few Chosen."
"But not yet."
"But possibly soon. Our time is a dangerous one, even without the added threat of the demons of darkness. She has little over a year left before she is too old to be called. The calling may come sooner than that."
Buffy nodded, knowing all to well the matters of being called. "Where is she?"
"In the garden in the back."
Buffy stood from her seat, moving silently from the small house into the foggy early morning air. "Mira? Could I talk with you for a moment?"
Mira moved gracefully from the shadows. Even without the mark of the fate, she had the predatory grace that marked a hunter. If she was called, she might do well enough to survive a longer period than most. "Of course, milady."
Buffy waved off the comment. "Buffy, please. I’m nothing but a sister to you in ways. Father Thomas asked that I talk to you."
Mira was curious. "About what?"
"Being the Chosen One."
"But I am not yet called."
Buffy shrugged one shoulder. "Things change, Mira. I became the slayer and my life changed forever. Sometimes I damn the fates for my destiny; but there are other occasions when I am able to take pleasure in my life. Not from killing, though cleaning the evil is a good thing. From the simple things. Slayers fight for the good of the world. I fight so that the world can go on. So that people can live their simple lives without fear.
"I don’t know the secret to surviving this life. I’ve done the best I can. I can’t tell you what will happen if you are called. But I can tell you what might help."
"Trust your instincts. You have them for a reason; use them. And don’t block your emotions. They give you fire. Anger, passion, revenge. They all work well in a fight as long as you don’t lose sight of your objective."
"And that is?"
"To kill the bad things, and don’t get dead while doing it," grinned Buffy.
"All right, do we have everything?" asked Robin a few mornings later, as the four travelers gathered in the main room of Father Thomas’s home. Buffy, Angel and Marion nodded, each one holding their saddlebags. "I think we’re ready then," he said, turning to their hosts. "We appreciate all the help you’ve given us, Father."
Father Thomas waved his hand. "Quite all right, Robin. It was technically my sworn duty as a Watcher to help out." Father Thomas shook hands with Robin, Marion and Angel who moved to stand near the door. He then faced Buffy, who was standing nearby. "It was an honor to meet a slayer such as yourself, Buffy. It gives me hope for the future."
Buffy smiled tightly, holding back her tears, as the older man hugged her. "Thank you for everything, Father."
Father Thomas bowed his head slightly in respect. "Fight well and stay safe, my dear."
"I’ll try," whispered Buffy, moving to hug Mira. "Remember what I told you, okay? Even if you’re never called, they’ll still be assets to you."
"I will Buffy."
Silently, Buffy crossed the room to take Angel’s hand, giving one last wave to the Watcher and Slayer wishing them luck as they stepped into the late London night.
Buffy gave a small groan as the foursome slowed their mounts as they approached a nearby village. Marion, who was currently riding beside her as they followed Robin and Angel, gave her a sidelong glance.
"You all right?" Buffy nodded, then shook her head, causing the older woman to laugh. "Well, which is it?"
"I’m just not used to riding. Before this, I’d never ridden before. I’m not hurting as bad as I was on the ride going into London though."
Marion grinned at her. "So it’s a plus."
Buffy laughed. "Definitely."
"So…" Marion looked down at her reins with her next words. "You’re a slayer."
"Um, well yea. But that isn’t what you really wanted to know."
"You’re from the future." Buffy nodded. "Is it different?"
"I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be answering questions like that, but yea. Coming here is a totally different world. I’m the first to admit that I’m a girl of my times, but being here…" Buffy trailed off, searching for what to say that would tell Marion what was going on in her mind. "It doesn’t seem wiggy being here. You guys fight for the good, and are respected for that."
"Isn’t that what you do though?"
Buffy lifted a shoulder. "Well yea, I fight the demons and stuff, but no one but Angel and my friends really know what’s going on in the shadows. Everyone just thinks I’m a strange girl who gets into a lot of fights. At least they did. At my school, I was elected Protector of the Year," she amended.
Marion smiled, getting the gist of what the blonde was trying to get across. "Sounds to me like they appreciate you."
"What are you two talking about?" asked Robin, as he and Angel slowed their horses so that all four rode side by side.
Marion winked at Buffy, and smiled at the outlaw. "Picking up some men at that tavern over there."
Buffy shifted the quarterstaff in her hand, getting used the length and uneven weight of it. She tilted her head at her opponent, who stood opposite about a yard from her. "I’m not so sure this is a good idea."
Little John gave her a bemused look, tapping one end of his own staffin a large palm. He said nothing though.
Buffy sighed and shrugged, moving to attack. They four of them had reached the compound earlier that morning, disclosing the information that they had learned to Friar Tuck and Little John. Both had been understandably concerned at what they could be facing, but had become confused at what Buffy had then disclosed. She’d told them, at Marion and Robin’s reassurance, of what she was, and what she did.
Little John had been less than willing to believe that any higher powers would select a girl as small as she to fight such opponents, leading to their current position in an open field a little away from camp. Their friends were positioned on a crop of rocks, watching with interest.
"Oh dear," moaned Tuck as he watched John hit Buffy in the stomach with the end of his staff, "I do hope that John doesn’t hurt her."
Angel tried not to laugh as he recognized what Buffy was doing in letting John get a couple of hits. She was waging his skill, trying to give him a chance, instead of disarming him with one blow. He’d already seen at least two openings of which she’d opted not to take advantage of.
"Is something funny, my friend?" asked Robin, wincing at a particularly large crack of wood.
Angel shook his head, gesturing to the sparring going on. "Just watch. Buffy hasn’t even tried to fight yet."
"She seems like it to me," said Marion, her eyes not leaving the two.
"She’s being polite," replied Angel. "She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings."
A minute later, the spectators recognized the change in Buffy’s fighting as her moves became faster, more accurate, forcing Little John into a small retreat. Seconds later, she was holding both quarterstaffs. There seemed to be some sort of communication between the two, ending with Buffy shrugging as she returned his staff, holding hers lightly, with no fighting stance. The three outlaws’ jaws fell open with disbelief as with only two knocks of wood against wood, Little John was on his back.
"Good heavens," breathed Marion, shaking her head.
"I guess Buffy being this Slayer, she needs to know how to fight?" ventured Tuck.
Angel nodded. "As many possible ways of fighting as well. You three saw her using the sword that day we met. It’s one of her best," he said, rubbing a particular spot on his torso.
Robin’s smile faded and he turned somber. "I have a feeling that before your mission here is over, we’ll have another chance to see her in action."
"See who in action?" asked Buffy, walking toward them beside Little John. "Here lover," she said, tossing Angel John’s staff, "You need to practice too. So, see who in action?"
"You in the fight against Conakur. We were talking about your fighting abilities."
Buffy nodded her head, casually twirling the length of wood in a circle. "Well, we know who is and what he’s capable of doing. We just need to know where to find him. Any suggestions?" She looked at the two that had stayed behind at the compound. "Did anything happen that could be tied to him?"
Tuck shook his head. "Like we said before, it was quiet. Not even Prince John was terrorizing villages."
Buffy shook her head. "I don’t like that. Whenever things get too quiet, it always means bad news."
Angel nodded, standing up and moving away from the four outlaws as he began to slowly spar with Buffy. "All right, so we have to figure this out."
Buffy agreed, smirking at Angel. "So Angel, tell me. What would you do first, if let’s say, you were a newly released demon, that is of course, after finding a hide out?"
"Oh that’s really cute, Buffy," he said, jumping out of the way as she ducked from the pot shot he took at her head.
"No offense or anything," she amended, grinning at him, and knowing that he wasn’t mad. "I’m just trying to figure something out."
"Uh-huh," he said, shaking his head and smiling at her as he began to press an advantage. "Okay. Let’s just say, for the moment that I was a demon. I’ve just been released from years of torture in my own personal hell."
"So what would you do?" inquired Buffy, somersaulting over the end of the quarterstaff.
"Get some minions, then try and give an example of my power," he replied, catching his weapon against hers and kicking out to break the stalemate.
"What are they talking about?" whispered John to Robin.
"I’m not sure, but I think they’re figuring out where Conakur is hiding."
"So you’d take the first opportunity to do so, right?" said Buffy.
"Unless I had a pending grudge against someone that I wanted to lash out at. Yes."
"All right then." Abruptly the fighting stopped, and Buffy turned toward Robin, leaning her cheek casually against the length of wood. "So, Robin, where is the nearest abandoned ruin, or otherwise large enough area to hold a raging demon, to that town where we met?"
"The Sturnworth Ruins," he said immediately, his mind trying to catch up with what had just passed between the couple. "You believe that Conakur is there?"
Buffy glanced at Angel, almost ninety-nine percent sure in what they had came up with, but shrugged at the famous outlaw. "It’s worth a shot."
End of Chapter Two
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