30 pieces of silver
Gunn’s voice: Previously on Angel…
Lindsay spoke to the assembled group, eyes scanning them slowly: Spike, Gunn, Lorne and Wesley.
“To be a Black Thorn is to be the senior partner’s instrument on Earth. You
wouldn’t make it on the circle’s radar until you’ve killed one of your own lieutenants.”
Angel walked through a dark hallway into a chamber containing a hooded, beaten figure. The hood was pulled off to reveal Drogyn and without hesitation Angel twisted his head until his neck broke. Angel pushed Drogyn’s body dismissively to the floor. A robed, masked demon offered his hand to Angel.
“Welcome to the fold.”
In the secret meeting chamber of the Circle of the Black Thorn, the members gathered to begin a meeting, Angel at the head of the table.
(chanting in unison): “Of the world’s woe, now convene. All is bound by the circle and its thorns. Invisible, inviolate, we, the seeds of the storm, at the center of the world’s woe, now convene.”
Angel spoke to each of them in turn:
- This may come out a little pretentious, but… one of you will betray me. Wes. Vail is the sorcerer of the bunch. You know that game. You’ve seen his place. He believes you’d make a play for my spot.
- Illyria – Izzerial the Devil and 3 other members of the circle dine together almost every night.
- Gunn – Your friend Senator Brucker has a campaign office in west L.A. You already know she’s pure hellspawn, and she tends to surround herself with vampires.
- Spike – All you need is a rattle … for the baby … and a legion of the Fell Brethren. I want the kid returned to his mother and the foster family dismembered.
- Lorne – I just need you to back up Lindsey.
(Choppy cuts between Angel’s fight, Spike’s fight, Wesley’s fight, Gunn’s fight and Gunn’s wounded journey back to the alley)
[FADE to ‘Angel’ Theme music and credits]
Illyria moved into the room to catch Wesley’s crumpling form deftly and lay him on the ground. Kneeling beside him she spoke his name before inspecting the damage inflicted by the sorceror’s knife. “This wound is mortal”
Wesley reached to touch the wound himself and smiled looking at her, “Aren’t we all? It was good… that you came.”
Illyria hastily attempted to cover up the vulnerable feelings that swelled within her, “I killed all mine, and I was…”
The eldar demon paused, then confessed, “I think so. But I can’t help. You’ll be dead within moments.”
Illyria considered Wesley’s discussion concerning her form, when the parents of her present shell had visited. The simplicity of pulling fragments of memory together and extrapolating behaviour from it. The welcome, positive effect on her parents. Her parents? The thought jarred, conflicting with memories of eternities past, but it persisted in the forefront of her mind suggesting a course of action. “Would you like me to lie to you now?”
Wesley looked at her weakly, “Yes. Thank you. Yes.”
Something akin to fear fell like a shadow across Illyria’s mind as the fragments of Fred’s personality bubbled up to the surface unbidden, sentient in their determination to find expression. She felt helpless for the first time in millenia, as blazing passion burst forth from the depths of her being. As outer reality flowed viscous across her form, Illyria slid down the blazing channels inside her mind following the trail of passionate fire back to what seemed to be a small dark cave. The walls were covered with writing and diagrams. Mathematical formulae flowed like art across the textured walls rendering an abstract beauty that stunned her for a moment. She reached a hand to touch the suprisingly solid environment, fingertips tracing the flow of equations, discerning the train of thought expressed in them. She felt humbled as she realized she was standing in the sacred shrine of another of her kind, of an equal. A being somehow diminished as she had been, coming to terms with a new reality of existence. The equations seemed both familiar and truly alien to her; the written form of a language birthed since she’d been in the deeper well. She’d seen glimpses of it as she’d walked around the offices of Wolfram and Hart: fragments on computer screens in the science labs, printed on folded papers carried by urgent and socially inept humans. It had been beneath her to admit lack of familiarity with this form of communication. She paced the cave, eyes flickering across every inch of its surface puzzling at the meaning.
An unexpected cry for help broke through her meditation, the voice of Fred, “I could use some help out there.”
Illyria strode back out of the cave to see the fragments of Fred’s form buzzing like a cloud of angry insects, a human shaped cloud of mental energy bound together by passionate emotion. It lifted a hand pointing back along the ravaged mental pathways, the trail of destruction wrought by Fred’s ascention to reality. Illyria nodded slowly, “We have unfinished business you and I but now is not the time.”
Mustering her most regal bearing Illria’s presence bounded outward to reenforce her hold over the physical form she’d taken. Blue colour spread swiftly along arms and hair, realizing at the last moment the course of action Fred had committed her to. How dare Fred find cohesion! How dare the mortal carve her own reality out of the maleable substance of her thought! How dare she cover the walls with scratchings that Illyria was powerless to interpret! All of her frustration expressed itself in the punch that Fred began, and she completed. The swing connected with a satisfying amount of raw power, shattering Vail’s head with the force of the blow. Illyria watched the pieces tumble to the ground feeling satisfied at having expressed the outrage that she felt, allowing a very human, small smile to form of its own accord.
Lorne took out a gun with a silencer and shot Lindsey twice in the chest, as per Angel’s request. Originally each member of the team had been given an assignment: his had been to deal with the Sahrvin lair. Clearly outmatched, he’d needed a blunt intrument to carry out the job, hence Lindsey. The symmetry of using Wolfram and Hart’s ex-lawyer against them wasnt lost on Lorne it just left a bad taste in his mouth to use the man and toss him away.
Lindsey stumbled back against the wall, looking at his wounds, then at Lorne, incredulous “Why – why did you…”
Lorne considered a full confession but kept it short – it wasnt so much the sands of time trickling from one chamber of the hourglass to the other that he was up against, more the lifeblood staining Lindsey’s chest. “One last job. You’re not part of the solution, Lindsey. You never will be.”
Lindsey pointed at Lorne the humour of the situation striking him, “You kill me? A flunky?! I’m not just… Angel…kills me. You don’t… Angel…”
With a sigh, speaking to no-one in particular, Lorne addressed the room full of corpses before dropping the gun and walking out, “Good night, folks.”
All the adrenaline of the moment drained from him as he walked out into the night air. In meere moments the tough act was replaced; his innate vulnerability surfaced concurrently with the contents of his stomach. Lorne spent some moments leaning against the filthy red brick wall of the building, doubled over, after the retching had finished. This was why he’d quit. This was why he wasnt cut out to deal in death. A nearby noise broke his train of thought and he looked up … eyes scanning from black combat boots slowly up green cargo pants, to a cut-off tank top, finally coming to rest on sultry dark eyes framed by shoulder length dark hair: the face of death herself.
“Still dont have the stomach for it, eh Lorne?”
Lorne straightened up, not letting his guard down, “And that is what separates you and I”
Music rose within him as a welcome comfort after the last few hours. He turned and began walking away from the Slayer with as much dignity as possible, singing to himself
The gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain.
His mind leaped to a later verse in the song,
The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all
His mind was made up well before he’d taken the job of dealing with the Sahrvin lair, even before having to dispose of Lindsey. He was going to lay low and watch the rest of the show from the vantage point of a bar somewhere. He nodded to himself, tequilla felt like an appropriate response.
Faith’s voice broke through Lorne’s anticipation of self-medication, “I came with a message, she needs you. Needs your sight.” A note of disgust crept into her voice as she regarded the mess he’d left on the ground by the doorway, “She said she needs your vulnerability, your sensitivity. I mean, I dont know why she needs someone who cant keep chopped carrots and corn inside his stomach, but, each to her own I guess. So, you gonna come willingly or do I have to drag your green ass back there myself?”
With a deep sigh, Lorne turned and followed the Slayer back to her car and slid into the passenger seat realizing a long night was about to get even longer.
Illyria stamped angrily out of the sorceror’s home heading for the Hyperion hotel. She became aware of a stealthy presence stalking her, a half-breed demon by the smell of him. The scent of machined metal and tanned leather clung to him, so she calmly added armour and weapons to her mental image of who was following her. Something in his scent puzzled her, a hint of something other-worldly, not of this plane. It had faded but was unmistakable. So, a warrior imported from another dimension. She felt gratified that her enemies esteemed her enough to go to these lengths. She spun expecting to catch the stealthy hunter some distance behind her position, only to find herself facing the belly of a larg beast. Fear gripped her, this was not the assailant she could smell, could sense. This one was lost to her. She was still lost in thought as it reached one of its four arms down to grasp her by the head and lift her off the ground.
Her eyes widenned when she finally came face to face with the thing. It was hideous, all teeth and horns, small pig-like eyes glaring at her below heavy brow ridges. She felt it grasp each of her limbs in a different hand and begin to pull, hard.
Pain erupted deep inside her body as joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles began to part company. Her struggles were resisted with ease and the tension on her body increased. The sound of shoulders popping out of joint was joined by the sound of steel slicing through flesh. By the sound of it, a single sword in the hands of a skilled warrior. So… the stalker wasnt hunting her at all! The half-breed was hunting the beast she had been unable to sense. her view abruptly shifted as the clawed hands holding her left side were sliced clean off. A whirling shape clad in form-fitting black leather armour and wielding a glowing blue sword stepped clear of the beast as it dropped Illyria’s half broken body and charged to fight.
The fight continued down the street leaving a trail of broken wreckage behind it: parked vehicles, street lights and garbage dumpsters. Illyria tried to stand but even her amazing metabolism needed time to recover. She lamented her diminished state and cursing at not having been able to sense the assailant. Had the stalker not alerted her she’d have been torn limb from limb before she’d even known what was happening. Someone, somewhere knew her limitations intimately and had chosen wisely.
A concerned voice broke her free of her train of thought. “Are you hurt?”
She looked up into a blood splattered face, noting deep dark eyes, long hair and an engaging, honest smile. She knew this warrior! Dipping quietly inside she looked for the memories and was quickly joined by Fred’s whirling, fragmented presence.
“It’s the Groosalugg.”
“What, that beast?”
“No, the extra-dimensional warrior that saved you. He’s a friend. Trust him with your life – we all did.”
Fred’s presence retreated and Illyria openned her eyes, “Groosalugg?”
The warrior looked surprised to be called by name, “Yes?”
Illyria attempted to move only to find her right arm gripped firmly by the Groosalugg, “Release me at once!”
“These joints need to be set, and this will hurt, so hold on.” The Groosalugg expertly applied pressure and twisted the arm popping it back into joint then repeated the procedure with her left arm. “You have made great enemies for them to send such a beast after you. The seer was right to send me to your aid. Now, if you can stand, we must go to her.”
Illyria took a small amount of pleasure in seeing the Groosalugg’s surprised reaction as she fluidly stood, stretched and began striding off down the street. She listenned as he sprinted to catch up with her, but, didnt break her stride as she ignored his request and headed for the rendezvous with Angel.
Lorne opened his eyes as the car stopped, lifting his head from where it was lolling in sleep. He glanced at Faith in the driver’s seat feeling a moment of gratitude that she’d not noticed that he’d been drooling for the last few minutes of their drive. Quickly he wipes his chin and distracted the Slayer by stretching theatrically.
She looked annoyed as she dodged his stretching arm, “Move your sleepy bones, we’re on a schedule here”
As she got out of the car Faith turned and tossed the keys back in onto the driver’s seat. “Wasnt mine to begin with. Sweet ride though, I think I’ll come back for it if we get through all this.”
Lorne followed her inside a tall, rundown looking building sporting a handsome collection of well aged graffitti on the outside. The stairwell was badly lit: where lighting wasnt burned out or smashed, half the flourescent strips were flickering enough to cause headaches. And the smell. Lorne felt his stomach rising again as he quickly pulled his hankerchief out of his pocket to cover his nose and mouth in a futile attempt to block the smell of human bodily wastes.
Faith lead the way upstairs and kept going at a good pace despite Lorne’s huffing and puffing behind her. Somewhere around the 3rd floor Lorne found his spirits lifting as the lighting seemed to improve and the smell of human bodily waste receded. Something about being eye-level with the Slayer’s hind-quarters brought a song to mind
Hey I was just a skinny lad
Never knew no good from bad
But I knew love before I left my nursery
Left alone with big fat fanny
She was such a naughty nanny
Heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me!
He smirked at the chorus,
Oh won’t you take me home tonight
Oh down beside your red fire light
Oh and you give it all you got
Fat bottomed girls
you make the rocking world go round!
He continued the song as an annonymous hum after the lyrics drew a sharp glare from Faith, with the offer to kick his bottom into the middle of next week. By the time they reached the roof his mood had changed completely and even Faith’s customary scowl had lifted a few degrees. Lorne strode out onto the flat concrete roof with a spring in his step and the last few lines of an Irish drinking song on his lips
He opened his eyes and found himself staring at a smooth domed ceiling. His left hand instinctively reached for the tear in his shirt, knowing to the core of his being that it would be there, and through the shirt tear to a tear in his own flesh. The wound was open and his fingers came back slick with blood yet none flowed down his body. Gingerly he rolled onto his side switching his view from domed ceiling to walls. His gaze travelled around the room couting sixteen smooth stone walls each with an alcove containing an ornate mirror with copper edging. Recessed lighting in each alcove lit both the mirrors and the whole room.
He drew himself into a sitting position and watched himself in several mirrors follow suit but lagging behind reality by a few moments. The reflection in a mirror to his left began to turn just as he heard the whispering sounds of heavy robes dragging on the smooth, cold marble floor. His own head turned lagging behind the reflection being trailed by some of the other reflections.
The whispering of robes stopped and a papery voice spoke a few syllables in tones too low to exactly make out. Flames burst from the lighting recesses of five alcoves causing him to flinch at the sudden heat on his face. Moments later the silvery surface and ornate copper frame melted and flowed across the floor pooling within a few feet of where he sat. The reflective silver pools remained edged in copper, with reflections lagging behind reality just as they had when they’d lived in the alcoves.
The papery voice spoke again and the reflections in the pools changed:
- the nearest one showed a green horned demon leaning on a brick wall throwing up
- another pool showed a young handsome black man fighting his way through a room full of vampires dressed as political campaigners
- another showed two vampires, dark brown and bleached blond hair respectively bobbing and weaving, fighting an advancing horde of creatures
- another followed an armoured female warrior, blue hair streaming behind her as she strode purposefully down a well lit urban street
He gasped as he looked into the last of the pools, seeing his own reflection, watching as an aged sorceror plunged a large knife into his chest.
He looked up, scanning the room for the robed figure and not finding them, eyes returning to the reflective metal pools, fingers clutching the ragged edges of his chest wound. The papery voice spoke and the images froze in response to his command. After a pause it spoke a single intelligable word
The man stood and turned around with a frantic edge to his body language becoming disoriented by the mirrors both prediciting and lagging behind his movement. Dizziness swept over him and he rapidly found himself on his knees looking into his own mirrored pool, a look of agony on the his own and depicted face. The voice cajolled him,
He knew there would be a cost. Moments in time flowed across the face of mirros around the room, future and past, with time laying in fluid pools before him. As the thoughts solidified in his own head, so too did his own pool, drawing its edges inward to become a silvery bead about 1/2 an inch in diameter. The copper frame flowed into a loose circlet attaching itself to the bead. He reached and the warm metalic band slithered, snake-like, onto his wrist and solidified.
Looking into the remaining pools he pointed at the handsome black man, betrayal coming easier than he thought. The images began moving again and what had been a flawless fight going in favour of the warrior suddenly turned nasty. Two vampires shimmered into being in the mirrored room and stepped through mirrors to become part of the scene. One caught the handsome man from behind while the other stabbed him viciously, delivering an obviously fatal abdominal wound. Their mission accomplished, they shimmered and vanished from the scene leaving the wounded man to stumble out of the room.
The papery voice hung in the air, and the man looked at the silver and copper bracelet on his wrist and back to the pools. His last living moments, tattered threads of his lifeline drawn into a single piece of living jewelery. He could feel the chest wound closing even as he turned to look into the remaining pools. Green, blond or blue?
He pointed to blue, finding his voice at last.
“Her senses are acute and her armour inpenetrable it wont be easy.”
A big demon shimmered into being. It was hideous, all teeth and horns, small pig-like eyes glaring at the mirrors from below heavy brow ridges. Four massive arms ended in clawed hands. It stepped through a mirror and began stalking the female warrior, silently, without giving her a hint of its presence until the last moment before its attack, snatching her up and beginning to tear her limb from limb. The man tore his gaze away, emotional agony spilling from his lips in a wordless cry. The remaining pools flowed back to alcoves leaving him sobbing and alone on the marble floor.