FIC: Riders PG-13 (5/30)

This entry is part 5 of 30 in the series Riders
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Chapter 5  A Vision Softly Came Creeping

Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again.

Because a vision softly came creeping

left its seeds while I was sleeping.

-Simon and Garfunkle

Sound of Silence

 

Buffy stood beside a triangular rock formation. The entrance to the cave yawned widely. Weaponless and alone, something still compelled her forward.  She breached the entrance and glanced upward. The high curved ceiling was transformed by an otherworldly, incandescent glow.  She heard scraping noises ahead. Resolutely, she followed the sounds through the honeycombed recesses.

 

She entered a large chamber and noticed an old, very dark skinned woman covered in animal skins kneeling on the stone floor. Hunched over, she was scratching the stone floor with a large hunting knife.  A gnarled wooden staff lay beside her.

 

From other dreams Buffy recognized the First Slayer. She cautiously walked toward her. The woman stood up, halting her movement with an upraised hand.  Staring intently at Buffy she used the staff to point mutely at the dusty ground where she had etched the crude silhouette of a man astride a large horse wearing a quiver of arrows and carrying a large curved bow. He held a large triangular shape in his hand.

 

The old woman raised the staff high, loudly tapping the rock above her head.  Suddenly hundreds of worn playing cards fell from the ceiling. Glowing with the same phosphorescent light, they landed all around the dusty floor. Three cards dropped face down into the old woman’s outstretched palm.  She passed the cards to Buffy.  An unusual white, green and black hexagonal pattern flowed across the back of each playing card. Buffy turned the cards upright. The first card was the one eyed Jack of Spades, the second the Queen of Diamonds and lastly the Queen of Spades. The woman pointed to Buffy and then at the Queen of Spades.

 

Confused, she tried to raise a question, but was again motioned into silence. The old woman stared at Buffy and produced another playing card. It was the Joker. With a flourish, she paired it with the Queen of Spades.

 

As Buffy pocketed the cards, she heard the loud hissing growl of the Cantilly. She had begun the search for a suitable weapon when cold raindrops started to fall inside the cave.

 

The raindrops felt real. Wet, cold and very real.

 

“Slayer, wake up.”

Buffy opened her eyes and the dream cave dissolved. Spike was bending over her gently shaking her shoulder while fat raindrops plopped down on them and the center of the old market. She sat up and blinked her eyes. “What? Spike is that you?”

He stood back up. “Yeah, it’s me. We need to move, it’s started rainin’ and the roof has an enormous soddin’ hole right in the middle of it.”

She nodded groggily and slid out of her sleeping bag, while the rain began to fall harder through the rotted roof. She dragged the sleeping bag into the dry corner where Spike had already placed his. “How long have we been sleeping?”

His demon, always aware of the amount of time before sunrise, allowed the vampire to give her an accurate answer. “About three hours, although it’s so dark it doesn’t seem like it should be mornin’, but it’s about 4:00 or so. Sunrise will be in about three hours.

He raised an eyebrow. “I had a real hard time wakin’ you up, Slayer. Have you rested enough, or do you want to sleep some more? I could wake you later.”

“I was just really tired but I’m fine now.” Buffy decided not to confide in Spike about her dream, at least until she had a chance to think about it some more. “I know Giles expected us to wait until tonight, but how about we start now? I know the Cantilly must be in a cave somewhere around here.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. A cave is dark, warm and quiet which makes it the perfect place to stash a huge demon and a bunch of eggs and no one’s gonna look in there for it.” He smirked. “Except us, that is.”

“How will we ever find the cave out here? We don’t have any idea where to start looking.”

“Now that’s where you’re wrong. Check out what I found last night in that old cabinet.”

Spike handed Buffy a torn and yellowed piece of paper.It was an old flyer advertising spelunking expeditions and short walking tours into someplace called Crystalline Cavern. The flyer proclaimed it as ‘having the most beautiful grotto ever discovered.’ Most of the old paper had been torn away long ago, but a picture of the main cave entrance was still intact. A man in what was probably a guide’s uniform eighty years ago smiled into the camera and gestured at the entrance. Behind his right shoulder, the top portion of a tall triangular rock formation could be seen.

Buffy finished reading the brochure and nodded. “Yeah, this looks like a good place to start.”

Spike and Buffy quickly grabbed their sleeping bags and stashed them in the truck. Spike picked up an ax from the back seat and Buffy picked up her sword. They had no idea how long it would take to hike to the cave in the pouring rain, so they decided to bring some provisions and dry clothes with them in their backpacks. In case they got stuck for the day, they grabbed the small cooler, too. It held a couple of drinks and two bags of blood. Spike’s duster provided some protection from the rain. Buffy rummaged around in the back of Xander’s cab and found the top portion of a rain suit. She was so much shorter; it covered almost to her knees.

They had already discussed their approach. Since the demon would probably charge Buffy as she destroyed the eggs, Spike would kill the Cantilly while it attempted to defend its nest. They reread the directions written on the flyer and trying to avoid the deepest puddles, the couple started down the narrow muddy path through the driving rain.

*******

Teague was pacing nervously outside the wooden office door. On the floor below he could hear the tinkling of piano keys and Verda’s voice warbling on the wooden stage. Murmuring voices and the clink of glasses accompanied these sounds. He attempted to shut out the noise from a typical Saturday night at the Diamond saloon, but even the hotel above him seemed to be noisier than usual and Teague, nervous already, was having trouble concentrating.

He needed more time to frame the words that would help explain some recent information from Sunnydale. His boss was not going to be pleased and he wished he could be somewhere else instead of delivering it in person.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked softly on the door.

A deep voice answered the knock. “Come in.”

Teague stepped into the office and faced his boss. “Hello, Mr. McGee.”

McGee leaned forward pushing a black Stetson away from his forehead. “What do you want Teague? I’m very busy right now.”

“Mr. McGee, I just received a message from an informant back in Sunnydale.” Teague

removed his hat and held it in both hands.

“Oh? What sort of message?”

Teague shifted from foot to foot.  “Um, I found out that there was a slight problem after I left.”

McGee clasped his hands together and his voice became silky. “What type of problem?”

“Well, I found out that, umm, the Slayer wasn’t actually killed.”

McGee’s voice growled. “Oh?”

“Yes sir. I was told that she was driven back home by her companions. Evidently the Cantilly was unsuccessful in its attempt; the Slayer was only wounded and will recover.”

The silky voice was back. “And just who was in charge of this ‘unsuccessful attempt’?”

McGee’s shrewd black eyes took on a malevolent cast. “I believe that would have been you, Teague.”

“Sir, I trained the Cantilly just as I was supposed to do and dropped it off at a location where it could track the Slayer. Then I left to prepare my transport back here.” He cringed and clutched his hat tighter.

McGee shifted in his chair. “You left my Cantilly and went to do something else?”

“She acted real odd if I stayed with her while she tracked prey. A Cantilly is basically a solitary creature and she was happiest when on her own and she did make two kills successfully before going after the Slayer.”

“Did you even think for one minute that it might not be a good idea to leave a very expensive possession to roam around on its own? Why didn’t you just follow her at a distance, or at least place some sort of tracking device on it?” McGee shook his head. “What the hell happened?”

Teague lowered his eyes and replied “I’m not sure. The Cantilly had a solid trail to follow, but when I checked on it an hour later, it was already dead. I believe the Slayer killed it before she succumbed to the Cantilly’s poison.”

“That would be the Cantilly that I paid a small fortune for and is now dead?”

Teague took a step back from the desk. “After the Cantilly fell, I felt it was probably a smart idea to make myself scarce, so I left.” He tried to appease his boss. “I didn’t want to give anyone a trail to follow that would lead back to you.”

McGee steepled his hands together and placed his elbows on the maple desk. “So, basically, you’re telling me that while you were busy making sure you got away, you let my property be destroyed. You have no knowledge of whom or what did it, and didn’t bother to ascertain whether the Cantilly had completed its assignment.”

Teague flinched, he hated that silky voice. “Yes sir, I guess that’s the way it happened.

I’m sorry, sir. It will never happen again.”

McGee picked up a large cylindrical crystal from the desk. Dismissively, he waved his hand. “You can go, Teague.”

Letting out the breath he didn’t realize he was holding, Teague quietly closed the office door.

McGee played with the heavy crystal, turning it around in his hands. This was merely a minor setback. But Teague had become a liability that would have to be dealt with shortly.

Having made his decision, McGee set the crystal down softly on his desk, turning it to   catch the beams of morning light shining brightly through his office window. He gazed at the pretty kaleidoscopic patterns cast on the office wall and smiled.

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/185095.html

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