Chapter 1: here
Chapter 2: here
Chapter 3: here
Chapter 4: here
Chapter 5: here
Chapter 6: here
Chapter 7: here
Chapter 8: here
Chapter 9: here
Spike sat in the darkened demon bar. He nursed his drink while he thought about how incredibly fickle his Sire was being at the moment. Spike actually felt sorry for the poor Chaos demon that Dru had picked for her next protector. Suddenly a nearby conversation piqued the vampire's interest.
"I heard that a Slayer took down a Hell dimension all by herself," a smelly pig-faced demon said loudly. He was quite drunk and actually thought he had whispered the comment.
"I didn't think the Slayer ever left Sunnydale," a different demon replied. He wasn't quite as drunk as the first demon, but it was damned close.
"Wellll," the first demon slurred, "My cousin Bubba said that the Sunnydale Slayer is blond and is named Cassie." He took another swig of his drink. "Rumor has it this one has short curly dark blond hair and her name's Buffy."
Spike decided this girl must be the dark-skinned bint's replacement until the demon's next cryptic statements. He caught himself leaning towards the conversation.
"This Slayer was extremely skillful according to my cousin." The demon continued to slur his words and knock back drinks. This caused Spike to worry that it would pass out before he heard the rest of the information. "There was something weird about her. He only caught a glimpse of her, but he would swear she was a vamp or something."
"Ya wanna know what I heard?" a third demon interjected. He continued on after the other demons nodded. "There's a dark-haired sultry Slayer over Boston way, that's had a run in with this vamp that wants to take over the Sunnydale Hellmouth."
"There's no demon ruling the Hellmouth right now," the second demon to speak piped up, "But the Sunnydale Slayer and the Specter, with the help of William the Bloody, destroyed three assassins from the Order of Taraka that were sent after them."
Spike lifted an eyebrow when he heard his name. He put two and two together and came up with four. The vampire that was after him and his girls was on his way to Sunnydale. Spike was filled with a sudden fear for Beth. He swallowed the last of his drink, slammed the glass down on the bar, threw down his cash, and headed out the door in a flurry of black leather.
"Who was that?"
"Uh oh. I have a feeling that Sunnydale's gonna have a visit from William the Bloody," the demon hiccupped. He knew of only one demon who wore black leather so well and hair that glowed in the night it was such a bright blond color.
"Hey, Giles," Cassie greeted her Watcher, "How goes the research?" She slipped into the chair at the library table.
Giles looked up from his book to study Cassie. He knew that the young girl had spent the summer feeling that Jenny dying and Angel's opening of Acathla was all her fault. No matter how much Xander, Willow and he tried to convince the girl otherwise, the feelings persisted. The person that Cassie appeared to feel closest to was Beth; the two girls were brought together by the loss of their boyfriends. Giles shook himself out of his morose thoughts, and he answered the Slayer, "Not really. What little we know about the Specter holds no clues whatsoever to her identity."
"Maybe she's just a demon who isn't evil," Cassie replied, "Look at Clem and all the demons that he's shown us over the summer whose only desire is to live in peace with humans." The entire Scooby gang was surprised to find out that it wasn't only the evil demons that were attracted to the Hellmouth.
Giles chuckled, "Quite right. The look on Xander's face when he found out the man at the doughnut shop was a demon was priceless." Before he could say anything else the rest of the Scooby gang burst into the library. Cassie was happy to see that her friends were having a good time with each other, even though she now felt like third wheel.
"Anyone have exciting plans for the evening?" Cassie asked. The other teenagers shook their heads negatively, but Giles spoke up.
"The downtown art gallery received the most interesting shipment of tribal masks from Nigeria in this last week that I've been dying to go see. One of the masks is rumored to hold the power of a zombie demon, called Ovu Mobani ... Evil Eye." Giles went to his desk where he grabbed an open book. He laid it on the table in front of the teenagers so that they could look at the picture he indicated.
"That is one ugly mask there, G-man," Xander commented. He shoved the book closer to Cordelia so she could check it out, too. "What does it do?"
"It raises the dead, which are easily killed, unless one of the zombies puts on the mask on," Giles informed the group, "Then it becomes a demon incarnate and almost impossible to kill."
"Someone actually sent this little dohickey to the Hellmouth?" Cassie scrunched up her nose. "What the hell were they thinking? So, are you going alone, or do you have a hot date, Giles?"
"Actually Beth and her friend Jack expressed an interest in the masks, and they are meeting me there," Giles said almost proudly.
"Giles, you old dog, you," Willow snarked. She earned a laugh from the other teenagers.
"What?" Giles looked aghast at the implication that he was going on a double date with two young ladies. "No, it's not like that at all. Besides, I'll have you know Jack's dating Clem, and we know Beth only has eyes for Spike."
"Just kidding, Giles." Willow chuckled, and she rolled her eyes. Then, she turned serious when she noticed that Cassie winced at the mention of Beth and Spike. "Cassie, are you okay?"
Cassie put on a fake smile, and replied, "Sure I am. In fact, I think I'll tag along with Giles and take a look at the zombie death mask."
Willow and Xander looked at each other before turning back to Cassie, and Willow asked, "How about we go with, too? That way we all can go back to the Bronze with Beth and Jack afterwards."
Cordelia started to protest, but she was cut off when both Willow and Xander shot her dirty looks. Oz just commented that it would be a hootenanny which earned him strange looks that he just shrugged off. The group broke up after they agreed to meet at the art gallery. Giles and Cassie took Giles's car, Willow went with Oz in his van, and Cordelia drove Xander in her sporty little convertible.
The gang met up outside the art gallery. They were lucky enough to get parking spots fairly close together. They walked towards the front door; Willow and Oz were in front, followed by Cordelia and Xander, and Cassie and Giles brought up the rear. A cat ambled out from under one of the cars. The stench emanating from animal was so bad that the entire group gagged.
Oz, being a werewolf, noticed that the cat was actually mortally wounded, but no blood flowed from the cuts. His nostrils flared, and he let out a menacing growl. "That cat's dead, gang. Think this could be a problem."
The group hurried inside to find Beth and Jack standing just inside speaking to a distraught woman who looked vaguely familiar to Giles. Otherwise the gallery appeared to be deserted.
"I went into my office to get some paperwork for a patron," the woman said, "But when I came out everyone had disappeared. It was the strangest thing."
Loud pounding on the plate glass windows caused the group to jump. They all whirled around to stare at the bloodied man with unseeing eyes beating on the glass. The pane began to crack beneath the man's unrelenting hits. Beth grabbed Cassie's arm, and she pointed at the two retractable security window grilles that the gallery had for the front windows. Each girl rushed towards one, and they were soon joined by the others. They got the grilles closed just as the man shattered the window.
"He's dead, too," Oz replied.
"Too? What do you mean, too?" the distraught woman said wildly.
"Calm down, Joyce," Jack said quietly. She put her arms around the woman. "Why don't we go sit in your office for just a momen,t and I'll get you a drink of water?" Jack nodded to the others before she led the woman away.
"What the heck is going on?" Beth asked, "That guy isn't a vampire. Even I know that." She tipped her head and used her chin to point at the man that was now joined by several other dead people. They pushed their arms through the broken window to shake the grille, heedless of the glass.
"Giles <I>did</I> say we were coming down to look at some Nigerian mask that makes zombies out of the dead," Cordelia pointed out.
"I said a dohickey like that on the Hellmouth was asking for trouble," Cassie snarked, "Now fan out and see if we can find it." She grabbed Beth by the arm, and the two girls began to examine placards for Nigerian masks.
The others did as they were directed, and after a few minutes Xander called out, "Found it, and it's glowing red." As the others converged on Xander and the mask, the door to the back room burst open and several zombies shuffled into the room. Giles shrugged off his coat, and he threw it over the mask. Then, he pulled the mask off the wall, and he wrapped it in his coat.
Beth directed them towards the office that Joyce and Jack had disappeared into just a few minutes before. The group pressed themselves into the small room and barricaded the door against the zombies. Cassie and Oz kept their weight against the door and Giles dumped the mask onto the desk.
Joyce stared at the mask. "First we found a dead cat in one of the shipping boxes, and then some dead guy broke the gallery window. Here I was just worried about no one liking the exhibit."
"The only way to stop the zombies is to destroy the mask," Giles informed the group, "My good woman, would you have a hammer available?"
"What? We can't destroy it?" Joyce sputtered, "It's a masterpiece of primitive art."
"If it's not destroyed and one of the zombies gets its hand on it, the zombie will become a demon incarnate," Giles announced.
"That's a bad thing, isn't it?" Willow asked. She grimaced when Giles nodded. "Hey, you could say it got destroyed in transit, or tell the cops it was a 'gang on PCP'. They'll believe that." Willow grinned when the other teenagers nodded.
Loud banging on the wall of the office announced the arrival of more zombies. While everyone's attention was on the zombies, Joyce looked at Beth, and she gave a slight nod. Beth gave her a little nod back. The silent mother/daughter connection in full force between the two women. The looks went largely unnoticed by the others in the room, except Giles who found the exchange very odd.
"There's a hammer in the top right desk drawer," Joyce informed Giles. She closed her eyes unable to watch the destruction of the beautiful mask.
Giles opened the drawer. He picked up the hammer, but his eyes were drawn immediately to the picture of a young blond girl who looked vaguely familiar. Before he could study the picture too closely, Cassie's voice caught his attention.
"Giles, we can't hold them back for too much longer," Cassie yelled, 'There's too many of them. Destroy the mask." She and Oz pushed against the door as hard as they could.
Giles promptly forgot about the picture, and he slammed the drawer closed. He took the hammer to the mask. In a matter of seconds, the mask was a pile of splinters on the desk.
Cassie and Oz leaned heavily against the door as they panted. The zombies had disappeared as soon as the mask was destroyed. "So, Oz, is this your idea of a hootenanny?" Cassie snarked.
"What do you mean I can't go back to Sunnyhell, right now, Dru?" Spike snarled, "The vamp that sent the Order of Taraka's gunnin' for m'girls." He paced back and forth in a flurry of loosely controlled fury.
"The little night flowers need to bloom," Dru whispered as she danced around the room, "It's hard to grow if you're blocking the moonlight, my Spike. They need to grow strong and fierce."
"What the bloody hell are you natterin' on about, Dru?" Spike shook his head as he tried to understand his Sire's cryptic message. He exchanged a worried look with Ralph, Dru's new protector.
"They have to be ready, my Spike. You have to be ready, ready to accept them," Dru slipped into Ralph's lap, and she laid her head on his shoulder. "Like the flowers of Venus, they are, look so delicate, lure you in, and then," Dru snapped her teeth together sharply, "Snap. Traps you in, traps you in!"
"Dru," Spike growled warningly.
"But you are already trapped, aren't you, my dark prince?"