In which there is exposition, and a conclusion. Incidentally, you may have noticed that I've added a comment with Author's Notes to each of my previous chapters - check them out.
Characters: Hiywan (the First Slayer before she became a Slayer), Buffy. See here for a glossary of original characters.
Wordcount: 21,642. This chapter 4909
Rating: 15 (R) (Non-explicit references to sex, nudity, animal deaths, various bodily functions, nature being red in tooth and claw, etc.)
Previous chapters: One Two Three Four Five
I slipped through the leather curtain and out into the open air, keeping low by instinct. The moon had risen, and bathed the campsite in an odd black and white light, where I could see shapes but not colours. I moved off slowly, all my senses alert, alive both for danger and for any sign of my missing companion.
And when I found her, it was such an anticlimax that I burst out laughing, at myself and the ridiculousness of the situation. She was sat by the campfire, right in the middle of the camp, staring into the flickering embers, safe and sound.
She heard me, and looked around, then relaxed as she recognised me.
"Oh, it's you. Shouldn't you be asleep?" She mimed resting her head on her hands, pointing at me.
"I was, but I realised I hadn't seen you all night. I was worried."
"That's sweet, but I can take care of...wait."
"What? Are you... oh, Spirits!"
"O my God! Finally!"
"I can understand you!" I squealed in delight and rushed over to her; Buffy herself leapt up, and we hugged each other enthusiastically. Then she pulled away, looking a little embarrassed by the show of emotion.
"Uh, sorry about that."
I grinned, "That was the first word of our language you learned!"
"Only because you were being a brat. Um, but actually, Hiywan - Hiywan is your name, right?"
"Yes. And you're Buffy. At least I assume that's your name, though it sounds a little... odd?"
She groaned. "Six thousand years BC and I'm still getting that? You know, one of these days I'd like to go someplace where my name is boring and ordinary and mundane. And people would look at you oddly if you're called 'Bob'. Or 'Jane'."
I giggled. "Bob and Jane are really weird names too."
"Well, it's a start. Partway there. But seriously, Hiywan, I want to apologise for, you know, earlier. I shouldn't have bitten your head off like that. Um, that was a metaphor, I'm not really the head-bitey kind. Just in case you thought so."
"Actually a lot of the others thought you were a demon. I'm glad you're not."
"Really? I guess that explains why they were afraid of me. But no, I'm human... as, um, as human as you are. Which is... anyway. I was upset, and I took it out on you because you were there, and I shouldn't have."
"But what was the matter?"
"I'd really rather not talk about it. Nothing that was your fault, though. Call it culture shock."
"But you're all right now?"
"Sure. Did some patrolling. Mesolithic African vampires are gross, with the lack of clothes thing, and they were all thin like skeletons and.... Oh, yeah. Not to worry you but there were a couple lurking around in the forest outside the camp. Not anymore. Dusty now, as, uh, a friend of mine would say."
"You met nightwalkers?" My fingers tightened around the haft of my knife involuntarily. "You killed two of them? Yourself?"
"Sure. I'm the Slayer, like I tried to explain earlier but probably didn't get across too well, but that's why..." she broke off and added in a puzzled tone of voice, "Where do your vampires go in the daytime?"
"They dig holes in the ground. Or they live in caves."
"Right. And I guess they don't get much to eat, judging by how thin those two were."
To my own surprise, that hit me harder than even I expected. "They get enough." I was shocked by the hostility in my own voice, and Buffy was clearly taken aback too. After a moment, she asked hesitantly,
"I'm sorry. Who did you lose?"
She put her hand on my shoulder, squeezed it wordlessly. I submitted to the comfort for a moment, then shook it off impatiently.
"Doesn't matter. She'd dead now. Dead twice."
She looked at me in puzzlement, and I lifted the dagger and mimed stabbing. Her eye widened in horror. "You had to stake her yourself?"
I nodded. She sat down heavily. "God. I can't imagine... oh God. I'm sorry."
I felt touched, but annoyed at myself for welcoming the sympathy. "I'm a Guardian. It's my duty."
"Right. Duty, destiny. Believe me, I know how much they can suck. I - wait. What did you call yourself?"
"A Guardian? Isn't that what you are?"
"No, I'm the Slayer. But I've met - oh my God! She said they were around before the Watchers. You're them! She was you! They were..." She saw my blank look. "Uh, there's some sort of connection between an old woman I once met and you guys. Now I say it like that I see it's really not all that important. But, uh, listen. Do you know three men?"
"Huh? I know at least sixty or seventy men, if you include the ones from the other clans I've visited."
"No, dumbass, these are three specific men. They're tall and wear turbans and carry big wooden staffs and... and I really don't know if I should be telling you this."
"Why not? Who are they?"
"Oh God. Forget I said anything. Butterfly wings. I'm really sorry."
"Butterfly wings? What on earth are you talking about?"
"I can't tell you. I really am truly sorry, but if I told you, it might change... everything. Oh God. Now I feel dirty, like it's my fault too."
"What is? Buffy, you're not making any sense!"
"I know. Be thankful you don't understand me. At least if you are who I think you are."
"And who's that?" Since she was already sitting down and this seemed likely to turn into a long conversation, I settled down myself into a comfortable cross-legged position, laying the dagger carefully on my lap.
When Buffy didn't reply to my question, I looked up to see she was staring fixedly at the weapon.
"I've seen that before."
"This knife?" I picked it up, held it out. "Are you sure?"
"You stabbed me with it. Killed some of my friends with it."
"What? I never--"
"No, not you. It was in a dream. You tried to kill me in my dream. I'm sure it was you, but you were different. A lot more scary, and a lot less like a less-annoying version of my little sister."
"Wait. You dreamed about me? I've not heard that one before."
Buffy's tone was dry. "I'm not saying that to get into your pants. You've got the wrong Slayer for that. And also, you people haven't invented pants yet."
"So dream-me was trying to kill you? Why?"
"You tell me, it was you trying to do it... I think. Wait. Can you do me a favour?"
"What?" I watched as Buffy got up, walked around to the other side of the campfire and squatted down again. I could just about see her face across the orange glow of the embers.
"Just say one thing for me now. 'Death is your gift'. Go on, say it."
"Death is your...?"
"'Gift'. Say it again."
"'Death is your gift.' What does it mean?"
"It is you! I recognise the voice now, completely. You're definitely her. Just... younger, I guess. Hiywan. The girl's name was Hiywan."
"No, my name is Hiywan."
"Uh, yes. That's right. Hello, Hiywan. It's nice to talk to you properly at last."
"Uh, right. Um, has anybody ever told you you're weird?"
"Frequently. Have you ever painted your face white? And next question: if so, why?"
I blinked at the non-sequitur. "Do you mean Qasafi's ritual markings? A few times, yes."
"It's a religion thing? Figures, I guess. Very scary creepy religion. Uh, no offence."
"Scary and creepy is just what Qasafi is. It's why he's called the Feared One. Don't you worship him, then?"
"Most gods I've met aren't big on the actual worship as such, more on the bow-down-puny-mortal-or-I-shall-smite-th
"And how many gods have you met exactly?"
"Umm... five. Six if you count Willow. Eight if you include Angel and... but let's change the subject now please?"
"All right. So, before we were talking about how you're close personal friends with the Spirits, you were explaining how you had a dream that I was trying to kill you? Yes? Did I miss anything out?"
"I'm sorry, I know all this sounds unbelievable."
I replied in a droll tone, "Not at all. This sort of thing happens to me every day of my life. Really."
"No. You're right, it's unbelievable."
"Sorry. But actually, this sort of thing really does happen to me every day of my life. I have a very, very strange life."
"So did you really come here because you dreamed about me killing you? Is this revenge?"
"What? No! And, uh, yes."
"Explain for me?"
"There's a shorter word for that in my language, you know. But yes, I dreamed about you again. Different dream, though, a non-killy one this time. And I'm here for your help, not revenge."
"That's nice. So you came all the way from... wherever because of a dream? About me?"
"My dreams are the type which tend to come true."
I shivered. We had legends about that, and they didn't always end well. But it was probably too late to back out now, so instead I asked, "What do you need me for?"
"I... you know, this is going to sound totally creepy after all, now I think about it. I need your blood. Only a little bit though! And in a non-creepy way! The spell needs my blood too."
"What spell? Why?" And after a moment's thought, "And how much blood?"
"Just a few drops, honest! I, um, I need to repair something. Something I, um, I broke."
I blinked. "You're planning to cast a spell, with blood magic, and everything... because you broke something? You can't just repair it the normal way?"
"Believe me, we've tried. The whole lack-of-magic thing is a big downer, given that we're trying to fix something magical. Which is partly why I came here, that was Will's idea, send me back in time to before the Seed broke so the spell could be cast, listen to me I'm babbling as bad as she does. I'm actually turning into Willow as I sit here."
"You're also making zero sense."
"Wanna hear a secret? I'm not sure I understand it all myself either. But there was a big apocalypse, and I, um, might have had some involvement in it, not on purpose honestly. But I broke the Scythe, and now we need it back. Which is why I'm here."
"The Scythe...?" A memory stirred. "Red like blood, silver like moonlight. The chain that bound me and the blade that freed me..."
"What did you say?"
"Sorry. Something from a dream I had." An alarming thought struck. "Maybe it was one of those dreams you talked about. Like yours."
Buffy blinked. "You dreamed about the Scythe? Then I'm sorry, but that absolutely confirms it. You're one of us. Yay. So, um, you've only seen it in this dream? You don't have it here yourself?"
"I've never seen anything like it before in my life."
"No, I guess not. It is kind of, well, metal, and this is the Stone Age. Maybe your great-great-great-great-granddaughter will make it."
"Um, I don't have any daughters, or whatever. I'm celibate, remember?"
For some reason that remark, innocent as it was, caused Buffy to splutter incoherently for thirty heartbeats, and look at me incredulously. "I think this translation spell or whatever you're using must be faulty."
"Let's really not get into that right now. It's nice to talk to you but I actually am on a deadline here. I need to cast the spell to bring me here in time for me to go back, and we need to get the Scythe fixed first."
"Wait. The spell to bring you here...?"
"Yes, I know." She rolled her eyes long-sufferingly. "I don't understand it either, and I drove Will mad trying to get her to explain. Xander and Dawn didn't help either with quoting that stupid line from 'Doctor Who' at me all the time. And giggling, like they understand temporal paradoxes... paradoxises... paradoces... problems better than I do. Which they don't."
"Umm... sense-making? Please?"
"Sorry. Okay, listen. To fix the Scythe, I need some of your blood and some of mine. We mix them together in this..."
She reached inside her wrap - she must have a pouch there, although I wasn't sure where it would fit, her clothes hugged her body so tightly. In her hand was a tiny white bowl. I peered at it closely, and she held it nearer the fire so I could see. It was made of bone, or maybe horn, and beautifully carved. I could tell it was powerful just by looking at it.
"We hold the bowl in our cupped hands, I recite the spell Will taught me, and the blood turns into a crystal. It didn't say, but I've a nasty feeling it will be a glowy red crystal. I take it back with me, touch it to the Scythe, and presto! It's fixed. Or so we hope."
"All right. Let's do it then."
"What, now? Already?" She looked startled.
"You said it was urgent, didn't you?" I cocked my head to one side as a thought struck me. "You're nervous about casting the spell, aren't you? I know the feeling. I'm always like that when Grandmother or Senayit want me to use magic. This Willow you mentioned, is she like your version of Grandmother?"
Buffy chuckled. "Your grandmother, she's the scarrrrr-uh-careful old lady we met in that hut full of smoke? Willow is... not quite as old as her. Also Jewish and a redhead. But otherwise yes, they're very similar and I'll tell her that as soon as I see her again. "
"With your red glowy crystal."
"Right, with the crystal." she sighed. "Okay, come on then. Uh, it was all right for me to keep this knife, wasn't it? You can have it back when I leave."
"What's ours is yours. Until you leave."
"Really? That's what all that ceremony was about? Then thank you. Also, go you for standing up to the big guy like that, I guess he's your boss, king, chieftain or whatever."
"Thanks. And you're putting off the spell again."
"Clever, insightful people are really annoying at times."
"Thanks. Again. And you're still putting it off."
"Sigh. All right. Hold the bowl for me, in your right hand. You are right handed, aren't you? I remember you're right handed."
I did as she asked, and Buffy gritted her teeth then drew the sharp edge of the flint over the palm of her left hand. A few drops of blood squeezed out and fell into the white bowl, staining it red.
"Your turn now. Do you want to do it, or shall I?" She pointed at my left hand with the flint, and I held my hand over the bowl.
"You do it." The knife hurt, a brief sharp pain, and my blood dripped into the bowl and mingled with Buffy's. She put the knife down and put her own right hand next to mine, interlacing her fingers with my own, so we cupped the bowl between us. Then she muttered some words in a language neither I nor the spirit Senayit had conjured could understand.
"Is that it?"
"That's the spell. Now the blood turns into a crystal...
"Any moment now...
"Are you sure the spell worked?"
"How should I know? I'm not a big magic woman. Maybe we should get your grandmother."
"She'll be still asleep. The blood isn't doing anything, is it?"
"Give it time."
"Still blood, not a crystal."
"My arm is getting tired."
Buffy slumped back, unknit her fingers from mine. "It didn't work. I suck at magic."
"Maybe we need to wait longer. Or maybe you said the words wrong. I sometimes do that. Do you want to try again?"
She looked miserable, but nodded. "If you're sure. Your hand will be all over scars if we keep having to try though, I can't do that to you. I heal fast, but you..."
"Well, let's just try it once more, eh?"
We did. It still didn't work.
"Okay, I am officially a failure. All this way for nothing."
"There must be something wrong with what you're doing. Are you absolutely sure you're saying it right?"
"Yes!" She sounded angry and frustrated. "I practiced it a dozen times. And Willow even wrote the words down for me, look!" She reached inside her clothing again and pulled out a piece of - well, I assume it was leather, but extremely thin, very pale and folded several times. It was covered by odd marks, lines and circles, like someone had doodled on it with a piece of charcoal. I looked at it politely, since it obviously had some significance for Buffy.
"One of those symbols looks like a little smiling face. Look, it has a mouth and two eyes."
Buffy grimaced. "Yes, that's Willow. She put a smiley face at the bottom of the sheet. Big help that is now."
"Well, maybe it's our actions that are wrong. Are you sure we're doing exactly what the spell says we should?"
"I guess so. That part was in my dream, actually; the voice said the words over and over, so I'm not likely to forget them. And since it was in fact your voice talking to me, then maybe you'd know?"
"That's dream me, not me-me. What did dream-me say?"
"It was a poem:
Blood of death from the one who ended it,
Blood of life from the one who began it,
Mixed in bone laid over skin united
Creates the power to forge anew."
"Blood, skin and bone? Nice. I suppose that's the bowl, made of bone, and our hands interlinked for the skin united. How do you know it's talking about me and you, though, for the blood? Which one is you?"
"I'm the one who ended it. No confusion there." She sounded bitter. "And you're the one who began it; there's nobody else I can think of who fits the words better."
"So what about this blood of life, blood of death business? What does that mean?"
She shrugged. "Just poetic mystical stuff, I guess. Meaningless."
I frowned at her, and snapped sharply, "Words in prophecies are never meaningless, just because you don't understand the meaning!" Then I clapped my hand over my mouth in shock as I realised I'd scolded her in exactly the same way Grandmother is alway scolding me. Same tone, same sort of words...
Buffy was taken aback too, and looked a little rebellious, then nodded. "All right, cleverclogs, it means something. What does it mean?"
"Maybe you have to be dead before we can use your blood?"
"If that's the prophecy then it officially sucks, and it's no good to me. Someone else can solve it."
Buffy's eyes suddenly lit up, "And anyway, that can't be right because technically I've already died. Twice in fact. So that bit applies to me either way."
"Um, right. I'm pretty sure I've never died, so my blood is blood of life, surely?"
"I guess so, but the spell still isn't working. Maybe it's supposed to be symbolic somehow, not literal."
"Maybe it's not real blood, but symbolic blood? Or some other bodily fluid?"
"Okay, first of all, Ew and please do not talk about that sort of thing, I'm still scarred from this afternoon. And secondly: it's always blood. As... someone once said to me. In magic, it's always the blood."
"Blood of death... maybe it means blood from violence. You hit something with a spear to kill it; it bleeds to death and it dies. You cut yourself with a weapon, that's blood of death." I was excited: that fit! "So what's blood of life?"
"You can't make people bleed to save their lives, can you? I mean, people used to think you could in the olden days, but that was all a bunch of... ooh! Unless they mean a blood transfusion! But..." Buffy's expression turned downcast. "I can't see how that would work for the spell."
"Maybe you have to make me bleed without using a weapon, somehow?"
""But how do we... oh. Oh. Gumph. Okay, that is totally gross but it actually fits the words, kind of. If you're writing a really gross prophecy."
"What do you mean?
"Well, you know. The blood.... when you..." She struggled for words, clearly thoroughly embarrassed by the subject. "I can't believe I came back through time 8000 years to ask you this, but I think I, um, I think we might need some of your, um, menstrual blood. Sorry."
"My what blood? " The word didn't translate.
"Oh God. You know, surely? You're a woman. You... you know, sometimes bleed without needing to be cut by a weapon...don't you?"
"Oh! You're talking about the blood that comes out of--"
"Yes! Yes, that," she cut me off hastily before I could finish the sentence.
I frowned, tilted my head to consider the idea. "It fits the not needing to be cut part. But I don't get the connection to 'life' beyond that. I mean, the bleeding is an illness, surely?"
"What? No, of course not. It works. It's the whole menstrual lifeforce woman power blah blah moon stuff."
I must have been frowning, because Buffy added hesitantly, "Um, you do know where babies come from, don't you?"
"Huh? Everyone know that. From a woman's womb."
"Yes, but I meant how does the baby get in there in the first place? How do you get pregnant?"
"You worship the spirits and mother Serkalem blesses your womb with fertility, of course."
"Oh boy. Listen, let's just save this dicussion for another time and just trust me on this one, okay?"
"All right. So you need some - what did you call it, 'menstrual' blood from me to mix with your blood from cutting your hand. Right?"
"Right. I don't suppose by some lucky chance you're, Ican'tbelieveI'maskingthis, on your period now?"
"My what? No, I'm not bleeding now, if thats what you mean."
"Damn. It was never going to be that easy. So when are you next on?"
"Huh? How should I know? Hopefully not for a long time. Um, 'hopefully' was probably the wrong word from your point of view, I suppose."
"Do you not keep track? I don't suppose you have calendars here, but surely it's not that hard to keep track. How many days ago was the last time?"
"I can't remember! It was too long ago." At Buffy's scowl, though, I obediently did my best. "It was before we moved to the last camp, definitely. Not too long before, though. I remember I had to miss the last big hunt before we packed up. And we were in the lakeside camp for... about two moons, I think? Maybe three?"
"Three moons.. three months? You haven't had a period in three months? Oh damn. Um... I guess that means congratulations are in order?"
"Why? It's nothing I was responsible for myself, though I can't say I'm sorry."
"I really really hope we're talking at cross purposes here." Buffy looked at me and frowned. "You're not showing at all, not that I really know enough about this stuff to know if you would be yet. You're thin as a rake. Seriously, you're thinner than I was that last year in Sunnydale, when Xander was always nagging me to eat more."
"I ate more than you did at dinner. Honestly, Buffy, you should be more grateful for the Spirits' blessing. You'll miss the food you didn't eat today when there isn't any tomorrow."
She looked startled. "Does that happen often?"
"Of course. The hunt fails, the women can't gather enough for everybody, too many people get sick or injured at the same time... you go to bed hungry that night. It's how it works. Isn't it? Isn't it the same where you come from?"
"No, it isn't." She looked faintly sick. "I didn't even think. Guess there's no takeaway pizza or all-night supermarkets round here, huh?"
I didnt know what they were, so I just shook my head. Buffy looked like someone picking at a wound; fascinated and repulsed at the same time. "So what happens then? You just go out and try harder next day?"
"What else can you do? Of course, sometimes things get really bad." Buffy blinked, like she couldn't imagine worse than I'd already described, so I pressed on.
"If everybody was too tired and weak to go out to gather, or to hunt, then the whole clan would die. So Ariam has to make sure the ones who are best at getting food are well-fed, even if it means the rest get nothing at all that day. I'd hate to be headwoman and have to decide that; it's hard enough eating your dinner when half the people around you have empty bowls and are just watching you. The children's eyes are the worst. Sometimes I go off by myself to eat, just so I can't see them."
Talking about this had put me in a slightly melancholy mood, but when I looked at Buffy she seemed utterly stricken. She was shaking her head numbly. "Mom used to say sometimes if I left food on my plate, 'There's starving children in Africa who'd be grateful for that.' I never took it seriously. God. And this is your life?"
I shrugged - and because she seemed so upset, tried to reassure her. "It's not often that bad, though. Usually only if the rains fail. Most times we have enough for everyone to get something, even if you can't always eat your fill."
"God. This Ariam, the woman who has to decide who eats and who starves. What's she like? Is she..." She waved her hands, searching for words. "Can she live with herself?"
"Um, I suppose so. You met her at dinner; the woman who served you the first meat from the antelope. She's always seemed... normal to me. She's been headwoman since I was too young to remember."
Buffy shook herself all over, like an animal coming out of a pond. "Yikes. Guess when they talk about going on the 'paleolithic diet' they skip the whole part about half the people on it starving to death."
"It's not half. Even if you count the babies born in famine years; yes, they almost all die, but..."
Buffy put her hands over her ears. "Please stop!" I stopped. She looked at me, dismay still shining in her eyes. "Guess I don't need to ask why you're so thin. But you're fit too; for someone without superpowers you're in pretty good shape."
She smiled ruefully as a thought suddenly hit her. "And that might be why... How many periods did you have last year? Roughly, I dont expect you to count every one. Ballpark... not that you have ballparks here so forget that last bit."
It seemed an odd thing to ask, but I racked my memory, trying to think. Eventually I said, "Nine."
"Nine last year? That's not as irregular as I'd expected, so maybe you really are..."
"No, nine. Nine total. In my life."
"Oh. And how old are you?"
"I'm an adult."
"No, in years."
I wasn't sure, but I worked it out the best I could and told her. Buffy looked shocked.
Then she did the maths, and looked even more shocked. And depressed.
"So basically, you have no regular menstrual cycle at all, but it could be on average another month until you're next on?" I shrugged; if she said so. "And it might be even longer. And I need some of your blood to mix with mine for the spell."
She groaned melodramatically, thowing herself back off her tree-stump seat to collapse onto the grass. Concerned, I rushed over, to see her unhurt and staring up into space.
"I hate my life."
"Because, don't you see? I planned to get your blood and go home. And now it seems like I might have to stay here for at least a month minimum, and I didn't pack for the climate, and I've no changes of underwear, no toothbrush, and you haven't invented coffee. Don't even mention the modern toilet facilities, see: lack thereof."
"You're very welcome to stay with us, you know. You're a good hunter."
"Thanks. No really, I don't want to seem ungrateful. But even so..." She groaned again and close her eyes tightly, "I still hate my life."
As she lay there, I noticed something: I could clearly see the red and blue colours of her clothing. The sun was coming up; we'd talked the rest of the night away. I suddenly chuckled.
"What?" Buffy still had her eyes closed.
"The 'facilities' business. I just remembered how, um, shy you are about that sort of thing."
"And...?" she asked suspiciously.
"Just saying," I giggled. "If you need them, you've maybe just got enough time now before..."
"Before what?" Her eyes opened narrowly.
"Before eighty people wake up and all go off to use them with you..."
I collapsed in helpless laughter as she leaped up, horror-struck, and went running off at full speed.