The Eye of Trevhamon

Title: The Eye of Trevahmon
Series: Weilder
Series Order: 1
Author: Kylia
Fandom: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer; Doom (2005 Movie)
Genre: Alternate Universe
Relationship(s): Xander Harris/John Grimm; Samantha Grimm/OC
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Permanent Injury; Mutation
Word Count: 22,700
Summary: Several years after the fall of Sunnydale, Xander Harris spends most of this time on the road. The New Watcher’s Council believes he’s traveling is at their behest and he is acquiring information and artifacts for them. The truth is he has collected more knowledge and contacts than he has shared. When an assignment for the council has devastating consequences, extreme measures are taken to fix a situation that isn’t actually broken.



Xander Harris took a moment to breathe in the cooler air as he took a seat on the stone bench under an archway of trees.  He’d only been back to Watcher Headquarters for a few days but already he was itching to leave. He couldn’t stand the house the Watchers had made their headquarters.  It was less a house and more a castle, large an echoing, and no matter how much soundproofing Giles and Willow put up, Xander could always hear the sound of so many people.

Slayers in training, watchers in training, scholars researching whatever evil was afoot, there were always people around, no matter the time. He drew stares wherever he went.  Since most of the people at the castle had never been in Sunnydale, they didn’t know him before, and they hadn’t been there when he lost his eye.

Most of the new people gave him a wide berth. He never spent long enough at HQ to get to know any of the new people, and most of them just stared at him. The guy who got blinded by an agent of the First.  Blinded wasn’t even an accurate description of what Caleb had done to him, but he was over it.  He had dealt with it and moved on.

The others, sometimes couldn’t be as sanguine about it.  Buffy still blamed herself in some fashion, they never spoke about it, and rarely spoke at all, to be honest.  She didn’t spend a lot of time at HQ, so they didn’t see each other often.

He didn’t mind, he’d learned over the past few years that Xander had very little in common with most of the people helping Giles and Willow to fight, nor with Giles and Willow themselves.  He supposed if he was honest about his travels, Giles might find his information useful, but Xander didn’t trust the watchers, not even now when they’d been rebuilt.

Xander preferred to keep his trips brief, and when possible, he spent as much time as possible keeping his own company.

“I thought I’d find you out here.”

Xander looked up and stared at the woman who had approached his hiding spot.  “Elis. What are you doing here?” Xander knew better than to ask how she found him.

Elis Calique was a Seer in Willow’s coven and Xander had had several interactions with her.  More than anyone else at HQ, except Willow.

“You’ve been avoiding me.”  She sat on the stone bench, her legs tucked under her as if she was sitting in a cozy armchair in the library instead of a marble bench in a hidden nook of the garden.

“Only a lot,”  Xander admitted.

Elis nodded.  “It’s not an easy thing, what I told you.”

Xander snorted.  “No.” he sighed then turned and faced her for the first time.  Elis was a little older than him, with long dark hair. She was always calm and spoke with a wisdom beyond her years.   “Did you tell Willow or the rest of the Coven?”

Elis frowned.  “Of course not, Alex.  What I saw was for your ears alone.”

“Hmm.”  Xander hummed.  He’d given up on getting her to call him Xander on his third trip to England after they’d taken over the castle which now housed Slayer Central and the Watcher HQ.  Elis had found him in what passed for a stone garden. It was quite a distance from the castle, behind what had once been a mausoleum. The garden felt peaceful to Xander, and he imagined that in times past, people may have gone there for solace after the death of a loved one.

He liked it because it was quiet, and the others avoided it.  He liked to meditate in the stillness, and he had realized during his first trip that it was better if he didn’t draw attention to how much he had changed in the years since Sunnydale.

The first time Elis had found him, she had sat in the lotus position and began her own meditation.  It was two hours before either of them spoke, and when she did, it was with a solemnity that he wasn’t used to, not when he was near the others, anyway.

“You don’t belong here.”  She had grabbed his wrist and continued before he could protest. “You will have a choice, Alex.  The path has already chosen you, but you will have choose to accept it and all that you are.”

She had stood up then and smiled at him as if she hadn’t just told him something confusing in the kind of voice that couldn’t be ignored.  “It’s getting dark, let us go before they come looking for us.”

Now, whenever he came back to England, Elis would always make herself available.  Sometimes she would meditate with him, and say nothing, other times she would say things that had an edge of prophecy in the tone, but he let her words wash over him, and didn’t allow them to alter his plans.

“I saw you under a desert moon, Alex,”  Elis said as if Xander had not questioned her ability to obscure the truth from her fellow coven members.

Xander made a sound of interest but wasn’t concerned, yet.  He had spent a lot of time in deserts all around the world.

Elis paused.  “A change is coming, something I cannot see.”

Xander raised an eyebrow.  Elis’ sight was a unique gift.  It didn’t work like others with similar abilities, and there was always as much she couldn’t glean from her gifts as there was that she could.  Even so, the way she had phrased that was slightly worrying. In the few years, Xander had known her, Elis had never been wrong. Her powers worked in a vague way only she understood, but when she made a definitive declaration, one listened.

“They will send you on a mission you cannot complete,”  Elis said quietly. “I do not know where or why, but this…this will be the start.”

“The start of what?”  Xander asked, despite the fact that his usual plan was to listen to her warnings, but not engage.

When Elis didn’t say anything further Xander nodded once and stood.  She either didn’t know or couldn’t say. “I think I’ve had enough meditation for now.”

The witch rose gracefully from her lotus and followed him easily.  When they reached the front entrance she parted ways with him and walked towards one of the smaller libraries.  Xander watched her for a moment and wondered about the depth of her gifts.

Elis had never missed one of his trips to England.  She always showed up at some point, usually when he was alone.  He saw her on the castle grounds at times, with Willow or another member of the coven, but she had never acknowledged him on those occasions.

Xander wondered whether Willow or any of the other coven members knew about Elis’ interest in Xander.  He had never mentioned it to Willow, and his old friend had never hinted at knowing anything about the seer’s visits.  

He put Elis and her portents out of his head as he moved towards the large staircase that led to the upper floors.  He wanted to have a shower before his meeting with Giles. The older man had that look about him when he asked Xander come to see him.  No doubt they had an assignment for him.

Rupert Giles handed over a heavy tomb.  Xander looked across at the older man. Giles nodded towards the book.  “Please take a look.”

Xander sighed and opened it to the page bookmarked by a slip of paper.  There was an old sketch of a demon of some sort. He looked vicious. The sketch was shaded to represent dark skin.  There were two pieces of bone sticking out from the cranium, in a way that resembled horns or perhaps partially developed antlers.  It was hard to tell from the sketch alone. Xander knew that in life, their skin was dark blue, and the bones were neither horns nor antlers.

The demon in the sketch was wearing clothes made of some type of hide and carried what appeared to be a weapon of some kind.  It was long and thin and curved at the end with a sharp edge. The sketch made it hard to guess what its purpose was, or how it was made. The sketch was not shaded in, like the rest of the demon, so it gave the impression the object was light in color.

“What am I looking at?”  Xander asked wondering what the Watchers wanted with a Kre’ot demon and it’s sacred thambo’li.  He had a feeling this was exactly what Elis had warned him about.

“I believe that is a Kreut demon,”  Giles said, pointed at the sketch. “And the weapon he is holding is a”  Giles paused and consulted his notes, “a thambo’li, a dangerous object. It has mystical properties.”

Xander didn’t correct Giles pronunciation of either the demon or the thambo’li.  Xander wasn’t prepared to get into a discussion about how and where he’d come across his knowledge.  He had to admit the way the demon was holding it in the sketch, the thambo’li did make it seem like a weapon. Giles was right about one thing.  It did have mystical properties, but it was not a weapon, and couldn’t be separated from the Kre’ot, and should it be killed, those mystical properties would cease to be… mystical.

“We would like you to try to acquire this thambo’li,” Giles told him.

Xander knew he could explain to Giles why that wasn’t possible, but his experience told him that the watchers were unlikely to take his word at face value.  He just nodded and let Giles continue. The sooner this meeting was over, the sooner he could leave.

“I have reason to believe that the particular Kreut we’re interested in also has come across another item of importance.”  Giles pulled out another book and after a minute of page-turning he stopped and handed the book over. “Our sources have indicated that the Kreut we are interested in came across this demon recently.”

Xander looked down at the new page.  A Reliak. Reliak and Kre’ot had nothing in common.  What were the Watchers after?

“We’re looking for this.”  Giles handed him a sketchpad this time.  

Xander looked at the first page.  It was a basic drawing of crystal, one that hadn’t been polished or smoothed out.  It had jagged protrusions in various places and the artist had shaded it in pencil in several shades of blue and green.  It resembled azurite malachite, but that could have just been the way it had been drawn.

“A crystal?  What’s it do?”  Xander looked back at Giles and waited.

“It’s said to have certain abilities, and it is essential that we retrieve it and harness its protective properties.”  Giles paused a moment before continuing. “The Coven would like to use it in a protection ritual, and to strengthen our wards.”

The coven, or Willow?

Xander sighed.  “Okay. Get me all the information you have about the location and anything else you think relevant.  I want to leave tomorrow.”

Giles frowned but nodded.  “Very well.”

Xander watched his old mentor for a moment longer, wondering if there was something else he wanted to say.  When the watcher said nothing further and began collecting the books and sketchpad, Xander stood up and left the office.

Xander finished tying his boots and took a final look around the room.  Every time he came back to the Watcher’s Council Headquarters he treated the place more like a hotel than the home everyone made it out to be.

He was pretty sure that he wasn’t fooling anyone who really knew him.  Xander and Willow had known each other long enough that fooling her was sort of a lost cause, even before she’d gone Super Wicca.  They weren’t as close as they had been in years past, but they still had a connection.

He took a look through his duffle to make sure he had everything before he closed it and moved towards his rucksack to check for his other essentials.  There was a brief knock on the door before he heard it swing open.

“Hey.”  He said softly as he recognized Willows footfalls and smelled her perfume.

“You all set?”  Willow asked.

“Yep.”  He turned around and smiled at his oldest friend.  His smile cracked when he saw the object she was holding.  “No.”

“Yes.”  Willow held it out for him, her hands and arms covered in the gloves she wore sometimes when she was working delicate magic or dealing with sensitive objects.  “Elis told me it’s imperative you take the Eye of Trevahmon with you.”

Xander groaned.  Of course, she did. Elis was not above a little manipulation when she felt it was necessary.  He felt a little leery about this assignment. Between Giles misinformation, Elis’ warnings, and now he would be taking an item that was unpredictable at best, he worried what might be on the horizon.

Xander stared at Willow for a long moment.  She continued to hold the object out. Her secret smile curved her lips in that way that told him she knew he would agree in the end.  He sighed and turned back to his duffle and pulled out his own gloves.

Once he had put the gloves on and turned back to Willow, he narrowed his eye.  “You do remember what happened the last time I tried using this in a barter, right?”

Willow grinned.  “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”  

The Eye of Trevahmon was not actually an eye at all, or as far as she or any of the researchers at the Watcher’s Council could tell, any type of device for seeing.  It was a staff of some sort. It was ornately carved with intricate symbols at both ends while the base itself was made out of some type of marbleized stone that couldn’t be measured.  The symbols looked runic in nature, but they were no runes from any language system that had been studied by any watcher in their records.

Xander had acquired it in trade a couple of years ago during a complicated negotiation.  Willow had never gotten the full story about that trip because Xander seemed to get twitchy every time someone brought it up.

The Eye of Trevahmon had been studied rudimentarily when Xander first brought it home, scans and photographs mostly to see if they could identify the language. Then Xander had suggested using it as a bargaining chip when he went abroad and the trade had ended in someone’s death, which left the Council extremely cautious about how they handled it from then forward.

Willow watched Xander as he took the Eye and touched the runic symbols in a sequence she didn’t catch because of the angle and suddenly the staff became something much smaller.  Xander placed the much smaller object into a soft blanket he had taken out of his bag and wrapped it securely and placed them both in the rucksack he had been looking through when she walked in.

She stared at her old friend in interest.  She didn’t recall hearing anything about the staff having the ability to change size.  Clearly, Xander knew more about it than he’d told them. He hadn’t included any extra information about it in any of his reports either.  He also seemed to know something about the runic symbols.

Maybe it was time for her to push him about what happened on that trip where he had acquired it.  She opened her mouth to ask but Xander turned and placed two fingers against her lips.

“Don’t.”  He whispered.  “Not yet. Maybe when I come back from this goose chase, I’ll tell you.”

Willow sighed.  She knew Xander thought that the weapon the council wanted wasn’t a weapon but something else, and he might be right, but they had to check.  She nodded. She stepped forward and hugged him tightly. I miss you when you’re far away. She whispered into his mind.

I know.

Xander was in the middle of the third village on the edge of Lokou territory, negotiating with a beta Reliak for the crystal the new Watchers council said they needed but that Xander was pretty sure they didn’t.  

Considering they seemed pretty uninformed about the thambo’li, he was pretty confident whatever sources they had used to gather information, it wasn’t anything even approaching accurate.

And the crystal?  How accurate was their information on that?

He’d passed through a Kre’ot village two days ago and after speaking with their shaman and determining that all was normal, he moved on to Lokou territory.  The Kre’ot had confirmed that they knew what he was looking for.

A lewensvera they called it. However, they couldn’t provide a lot of information, aside from warning him that it had its own protections and wasn’t something that could be owned.  Xander wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he’d certainly keep it in mind.

He’d only gained that much information because of his connection to the shamaness of the Kre’ot village.  He carried her blessing and it was visible to anyone with the sight to see it.

Still, despite what the Kre’ot had told him about the lewensvera, Xander had agreed to look for it, so he’d make an effort to find the object, and then he’d make a decision regarding what action to take.  This assignment was not the first time where he’d been sent after something the Council only had a vague understanding of. If they knew how many times Xander had made the decision not to bring something back, or directed it to a different place, they probably wouldn’t be as keen to use him in the field.

He did miss the days when the translation department had been run by Dawn.  At least then he could be sure whatever information was provided was accurate and well-researched.  However, even Dawn had grown up and decided that while she loved her sister, and Giles and everyone, she loved them better from a distance.

The guy he was negotiating with stopped gesturing rapidly and waited.  Xander cocked his head to the side, his tongue clicking in a way that communicated his hesitation.  He pulled his own offer out of the rucksack and made a counter demand.

He hated to bring the Eye of Trevahmon on these acquisition assignments. The Council seemed to be of two minds about the Eye.  On one hand, they wanted more information about it but had determined that traditional examination and testing was dangerous and ultimately unhelpful, as nothing in their tests had revealed anything about its purpose or origin.

On the other hand, they wanted it gone.  A few of the new watchers felt it was too dangerous to keep, yet that same danger made it impossible to get rid of, considering they didn’t know what it was and couldn’t afford to let it fall into unknown hands.

Xander, consequently, was often asked to take it with him.  He wasn’t sure if they were hoping some accident would happen and the Eye would be destroyed or if they were just cataloging all the times Xander had carried it, with no danger befalling him.

The Reliak across from Xander examined the offering and clicked his tongue as he touched the staff reverently, carefully avoiding the etched carvings.

Xander admired the caution.  The last person he had attempted to trade this little beauty to hadn’t been so cautious, and that deal had gone south rather quickly.  However, as the guy had been dead, Xander had still ended up with what he had come for, so it was all the same to him.

Was he getting jaded?  He couldn’t tell anymore.

“You offer the Eye in exchange?” the trader asked with caution in his clicks and waited for confirmation.

“I do.”  Xander nodded, only a little surprised the demon was familiar with it.

“And are you…do you know its power?”  The Reliak paused as the last word trailed off in a strange click, resonating in a weird way inside Xander’s skull.

“I have…seen.”  Xander shook his head.  That wasn’t what he meant to say though it was no less true.

The trader stared at him silently for a long, long moment before he shook his head.  “Yes, you have seen much. But not enough.” He forced the Eye back into Xander’s hand.

Xander’s gloved fingers were protected from the engraving, but the thrust was hard enough that the top of the staff, with the more intricate carvings, touched the side of his face and in that instant, his knees buckled and everything went white.

Xander kept his eye closed and body still as he tried to catalog his injuries.  Sadly, this was not the first time something weird had happened on an acquisition meet.  Nor would it be the last, he was sure. He kept his breathing steady, so as not to alert anyone nearby, if possible.  Sometimes it was hard to work around those with enhanced abilities and senses, but that’s what his amulets were for.

He wasn’t strong like the Slayers or magical like Willow and Giles, but he had other talents.  Things he had learned out here in the wild. Shamans, witchdoctors and holy men. Priestesses, Loa, and hertu.  They all had something to teach someone who was open to learning.

Xander had learned much in the past few years.  

Xander knew that Giles and Willow suspected that Xander’s success at acquiring the things they asked for on behalf of the council was more than just luck but the other new Watchers were never quite sure why no one else had the same ability to bring home hard-to-find items that had been a part of a clan for so many generations.  

He had never offered to share how he did what he did out here in the wild.  It wasn’t something anyone could learn to do. He had a feeling Elis knew more about his activities than anyone else, but if that was true, she wasn’t talking about it, to anyone.

Xander had once been labeled the Zeppo.  He’d once been the token human. He’d once, despite his various possessions, been the normal one, with a regular job and a bank account, a car payment, an apartment, once even a fiancé.  No matter how that had all ended, he’d still been the regular guy.

No longer.  He’d shed that skin like a rattlesnake adding to its rattle.

They’d all reinvented themselves to some degree after Sunnydale.  Buffy had to learn how to command an army instead of being the only Slayer.  She had to learn to share the burden. Willow had to learn what her power really meant, and how to lead others with power, even when she wasn’t sure of her own.  Giles had to decide what he wanted the New Watchers to be about. What should stay, and what needed to go.

Even Andrew had to decide who he wanted to be.

And Xander?  He wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he knew he couldn’t do it in the shadow of his friends.  He’d spent so long as part of something huge that he wasn’t sure how to be on his own, and he had forgotten how to search inside himself for his own wants and needs without considering the bigger picture.

He had originally agreed to look for new Slayers until he figured out what was next for him and asked Giles to send him as far away as he could manage.  Giles must have seen something in his eye because he did as asked. For the first eighteen months, Xander spent most of his time tracking down Slayers in Asia and Africa.

His time there led to him doing a favor for an acquaintance of Giles while he was on a trip where he picked up an urn in a bazaar for half the price and the next thing Xander knew he had some sort of reputation.

Not that he minded.  He actually liked acquisitions.  He liked traveling, and he mostly liked meeting new people, demons included.  He learned a lot about demon species in the past few years. It was sad but these days he probably spent more time with non-human types than with humans.  He didn’t make it make to England very often, and when he did, he spent more time trying to feel comfortable than actually being comfortable.

Giles and Willow tried to understand, but he knew they didn’t, really.  They had thought his travel was just a phase, and he’d eventually have enough, and come home, to England.  However, England wasn’t his home. The life they had made there wasn’t his, and eventually, he’d have to tell them that what they wanted for him wasn’t what he wanted for himself.

He wasn’t fond of the castle, and he spent as little time there as he could.  There were few friendly faces. Most of the girls he had known back in Sunnydale, who had actually made it out alive were stationed in different places.  The Watcher’s Council HQ was more of a training center now, so once the girls were all trained up, they got shipped out.

Buffy was still in Italy though she did do a lot of traveling herself.  They never seemed to be in England at the same time. Xander was never sure if that was bad luck or the travel coordinator.  Dawn was based in Greece but she traveled some too. Xander did have better luck meeting up with her. They had actually met up more than once in some backwater demon village because Dawn liked to study demonic dialects in their native environment.

Dawn and Xander had a weird policy when they met up in the field.  Nothing that was heard or seen in the field was ever talked about back home.  Ever. Dawn brought it up, and she had been pretty insistent about it.  Xander wasn’t sure if she was afraid that Xander was going to snitch on her about her making time with the Nivalian priestess or if there was something else to her rule, but considering the kinds of things that happened to him when he was being hosted by locals, he figured it was only a matter of time before Dawn found out what he had failed to put in his reports.

He wasn’t worried about it though.  He knew Dawn was circumspect about her own reporting.  She didn’t report anything that she didn’t need to, and there seemed to be a lot that didn’t need reporting, so Dawn and Xander were of the same mind about their individual excursions.  Xander thought that was because they both spent more time around demons and other paranormal types than they did humans, and it wasn’t all fighting.

He had a feeling one day Dawn was going to get hitched, and odds were pretty good it wouldn’t be to a human.

Xander pushed his surrogate sister out of his mind as he slowly began to move.  He didn’t think anyone was nearby. If they were, they were not only completely silent but able to mask their presence from his proximity amulet.

He sat up cautiously and opened his eye to get a good look at his surroundings.  Except there was nothing to see. Nothing but inky black. For a moment he thought maybe he’d been blindfolded, and something had happened to keep his wards from reacting.  He reached up to check, but no. Not only wasn’t he wearing a blindfold, but his eye patch was half off.

There was a noise to his left, and he turned towards it.  The inky blackness didn’t shift, but he could see a vague trace of blue moving in the dirt.  He clutched one of his amulets and sent his awareness towards that moving blue. Suddenly he felt a curious mind.  It was cold and precise in a way that told him exactly what he was looking at. A reptile, probably a snake. This area was home to a variety of species.

The fact that he couldn’t actually see the snake, or anything else was worrying, but he’d been in stickier situations. Xander sighed and carefully felt around the ground where he’d apparently passed out. Dirt, sticks, small gravel, and something that felt like a large, jagged rock.

He picked up the jagged rock and felt around it.  It was a good seven or eight centimeters, but the jagged edges made it hard to judge shape. He wondered if it was the lewensvera, and if so why was it left behind when the trader had clearly left.

Xander stood up cautiously.  He’d gotten used to having no depth perception and his vision being limited, but this was a completely different situation.  Once he was standing, he moved his eye around the area, to see if he could catch any more of the vague lines of color.

Not too far from where he had fallen, there was a shift of light.  It wasn’t like when he had seen the snake. No this was something that was almost glowing from the inside, not in any particular color. He moved toward it and reached forward, almost without conscious thought.  His fingers slid over the light and instantly he knew what it was.

The Eye of Trevahmon.

What had happened that had not only knocked him out, but had the trader fleeing without the Eye, and if his suspicion was correct, without the lewensvera?

And more importantly why was the Eye glowing and was his blindness permanent?

Because, strange bands of light or not, he had to admit to himself that he’d lost what little vision Caleb had left him with.

Elis Caique opened her eyes as she was drawn from her meditation.  She felt a chill run down her spine alerting her to something.  She wasn’t sure what had just happened, but she knew it was important, somehow.

She reached into the bag she always carried with her and pulled out the small pouch inside.  She breathed in deep, her eyes closed, and breathed out again, tossing the contents out on the exhale.  She ran her fingertips over each of the stones that had tumbled out. She felt the symbols engraved on the stones and sent her mind out questing, searching for that spark that would give her a glimpse of what happened.

One of the stones moved towards her hand and she traced the symbol etched into it, reading the symbol.  She inhaled sharply as she recognized the stone she had personally etched to represent Xander. She opened her eyes and stared at it, willing it to give up its secrets, but nothing came to her.

“Okay.”  She breathed evenly and stared at the other stones, each with a different runic symbol. She frowned as she stared as two stones that were stuck together, almost as if a magnet or other unseen force was controlling the way they clung to one another. Her fingers brushed over them lightly and she felt a static charge.  They separated and Elis was able to see the symbols etched onto them. She frowned as she remembered the trance she’d gone into when she’d etched those stones. That could only mean one thing.

It’s time.

Elis heard the whisper on the wind and nodded once, acknowledging what she knew.  The time she had been trying to prepare Xander for was here, and it was up to him now.

By the time Xander had made it the thirty-seven kilometers away from Lokou territory and through the Terlak lands, past the Oolan river people and to his mentor’s Kre’ot village he had determined a few things.  His vision wasn’t gone exactly. He couldn’t see, not as he had before, but he could see something. Flashes of color. He had figured out the colors corresponded to various living items around him.  Animals, insects, plant life. When he looked down at his own body, he saw patterns of swirling blues and greens.

It reminded him of something Tara had once tried to explain to him when she and Willow had separated.  She had told him one of her gifts was a kind of Aura-sight and she could look at a person and see their auras, and the colors sometimes gave her an insight into a person’s personality or behavior.  It was one of the reasons that she knew it was time to walk away because she could see the dishonesty in Willow’s aura.

Xander had never told Willow about that conversation.  It didn’t seem fair, not after Tara had died. The colors he was now seeing, reminded him of Tara, and he wondered if the colors he was seeing now, were anything like her Aura sight.  He wasn’t naturally gifted, not in the way Tara was, but he had learned a lot about different belief systems and abilities that some people had. One of his teachers told him once that some gifts manifest in the unlikeliest of places, but if one isn’t open to it, the gifts would just stagnate.

When he reached the Kre’ot, their Shamaness, Fleh’mu, was waiting for him.  He wasn’t sure if that was due to her own abilities, if their connection had called to him, or if the Kre’ot scouts had just warned her.

She took him into her hut and sat him down with a tea that tasted like dry grass, but which Fleh’mu said would help him settle his energies.  Xander wasn’t sure his energies needed settling, but he did need a little time to regroup and decide what to do next. Once upon a time, he wouldn’t have needed to think about it.  He would have called Willow or Giles and someone would come out here to help him. That time was passed though.

For one thing, he didn’t know exactly what had happened.  Was it the Eye of Trevhamon that had caused his shiny new vision, or something that had happened after he passed out?  And what about the lewensvera?  Was that what he had found lying less than a meter away from him?  

If it was, something had happened to it.  Unlike other things he had interacted with on his long trek back to the Kre’ot, the crystal emitted no bands of color, not even a vague spark of anything.  If this was the lewensvera, and Giles was even partially correct about its properties, then surely it should have emitted something. Perhaps it was because it was not alive, not like the plants and animals;  however, he had learned early on in his studies that life was just another form of energy. It was likely his new focus just saw a certain wavelength of energy and not life specifically.

“You are not concentrating.”  Fleh’mu rumbled in her language.

Xander pictured her inside his mind and remembered the way her bone Thambo’lir twisted together.  The bones were the largest ones he’d seen on a female Kre’ot, but that wasn’t unusual as she was the oldest person in the village.  The Thambo’li she carried was long and decorated with intricate carvings and hand-woven braids. She used it as a walking stick when there were outsiders present.  It helped to give the impression of a frail elder.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It had taken Xander two years of regular contact and frequent trips into their territory to even be allowed a small amount of trust. And that was not something he was willing to trade.  Which was why he had told her about the Council’s interest when he had first arrived, before his meeting with the Reliak. It was also why when he woke up, alone and very nearly blind, he felt he could return to the Kre’ot for aid.

“You must accept what will be, Jesha’r.”  Fleh’mu said sternly.

Xander took a deep breath and relaxed his shoulders. He heard Fleh’mu moving around him, the sound of the bottom of her skirt brushing the dirt barely a whisper. He felt her thambo’li resting across his back and fought not to tense.  She tapped against his spine once before moving away.

Xander concentrated, trying to pick out the sounds of movement around him.  He didn’t know who else was in the clearing, but he felt as if he were being watched.

Fleh’mu returned to him, one of her fingers pressing hard on his shoulder.  “Open your mind.”

Before she had finished speaking, Xander felt a weight on his head, as though she had set something there.  He knew better than to move and risk it falling. Open my mind.  Okay.  Xander took another deep breath and did as she asked.

For a moment, nothing happened, then there was the sound of shattering glass, and he felt this wave of emotion crest over him.  It felt like it was coming from everywhere all at once, then just as suddenly it disappeared.

Xander opened his eye, but the world was still dark.  His vision shifted and he could see the gold color that meant Fleh’mu.

“You have seen, Jesha’r, and so you must perceive.”

Xander frowned.  “I don’t understand.”

“You will.”  

Xander could hear the smile in her voice and nodded once to show he heard her words.

“Come, Jesha’r, Mohl’ren will take you past the borders into Frehven territory.  Your guide awaits.”

Xander sighed.  He didn’t understand anything, but Fleh’mu preferred he come to understanding in his own way.  Mohl’ren was her grandson, and he was a scout, so he was known in other territories, which made him the best guide until he could meet up with Ronar.  

The Frehven were demons who had a territory to the west of the Kre’ot, and they were a society of knowledge-seekers, who valued information above all else.  Ronar was a trader of information and Xander had met him three years ago.

The Frehven could pass as human, so long as one didn’t see them eat, or naked.  Xander had done both, but he liked them a lot. Ronar in particular as he traveled more than most from his village and liked to experience other cultures as much as he was able.

He was a good choice to help him get back to Giles.  He wouldn’t raise any alarms in human-populated areas, and he wouldn’t coddle Xander, which he hated.

Xander stood up and brushed his pants off as he turned in the direction where he thought the village entrance was and focused.  He could see a large grouping of red and burnt orange where he assumed the village warriors were located.

“Jesha’r.” Fleh’mu said quietly, her voice a rumble.

Xander stopped and turned his head slightly.

“Do not forget the Eye.  You are now its keeper. It has chosen you for good or ill.”

Xander huffed out a breath and lifted his hand out for her to hand him the staff.  Instead, he sensed something move towards him rapidly and there was a whistle in the air.  The Eye of Trevahmon fell into his outstretched hand as if he had commanded it to come to him.  

“That’s new.”  He whispered. There was a tinkle of sound that he more felt than heard and then turned back towards the red and orange group.  “Mohl’ren?” He asked.

“I am ready.”  A deep voice answered and one of the burnt orange flickers broke off from the group and moved closer.

“Right.”  He twisted his arm and felt for the end of the Eye so he could resize it.  He pushed the runes in the correct order, hoping he didn’t press the wrong rune; However he had been activating and deactivating the Eye of Trevahmon by touch for months, so he was fairly confident.

The Eye made a clicking sound and then resized itself.  Xander paused for a moment, running his fingertips over the object.  He had never touched it without gloves. Not since he had acquired it.  He knew more about the Eye than he’d ever told Willow or Giles.  Enough to know that whatever had happened, there was no turning back.  Xander ran a single finger over a rune marking and then placed it inside the rucksack he’d put over his shoulder and began following the single burnt orange blur out of the village.

Xander Harris leaned back on the couch and stared towards the ceiling.  He couldn’t actually see the ceiling, but he was relatively confident it hadn’t been moved since he’d last been in this room.

Rupert Giles was polishing his glasses. Xander could hear the faint sound as the cloth rubbed against the lens.  Willow had nearly burst into tears when Xander showed up. She had left after a few minutes and Xander was sure she was researching a cure.

“It’s not so bad, G-Man,”  Xander said softly, using his old nickname for the first time in a long while.

“Xander,”  Giles paused and Xander could hear a slight shifting, but wasn’t sure exactly what it was. “Xander, I sent you there.”

Xander turned to face the older man, taking in the lines of gray that ran through his otherwise dark landscape.  “You did, however, there was no reason to think anything like this would happen. I’ve made dozens of trips for the Council, and nothing like this has ever happened.”

“Did you even make contact with the Kreut?  What about the Thambo’li? Was it responsible for what happened?”

“I met with the Reliak who had possession of the lewensvera.  When I woke up from whatever happened, this was nearby.”  He reached for the small box that Fleh’mu had given him to store the crystal shards.  He felt along the top and opened it. He held the box out and watched as the gray stepped closer to him.

There was a soft exhalation and Xander could hear the sound of the shards moving around as Giles touched them.  He couldn’t see the shards, but the box was emitting a soft golden glow, similar to the one he saw when he looked at Fleh’mu but muted.  Since she had made the box that made sense. The shards themselves seemed to have lost any mystical properties and held no energy of their own.

Giles paused.  “Reliak?”

“The species of demon who had the crystal,” Xander answered.

Giles nodded.  “Yes, yes…I just wasn’t sure how much you reviewed the material the Council provided.”  He sighed ruefully. “I remember how often you studied when you were younger.”

Xander’s lips twisted slightly.  “I’m not sixteen anymore, Giles.”

“Of course you’re right.  You’ve all grown up.” There was a pause before he continued.  “What can you tell me about the Reliak demon?”

Xander shrugged, slightly hesitant.  “Not much. He spoke with me briefly and seemed interested in selling.”  He paused, not one-hundred percent sure he should reveal the part about the Eye.  However, if he didn’t, he knew they would focus on the shattered crystal. “He was cautious with the Eye of Trevahmon, but in the end, I think he decided it belonged with me.”

Giles hummed, but to Xander, it sounded dubious.  Or perhaps the shift in the gray was what made Xander aware of the disbelief in the Watcher.  

“What makes you think that?”

Xander raised an eyebrow but knew Giles wouldn’t see it with the sunglasses Xander had donned after Willow’s emotional response.  “Well, I was unconscious, I’m not sure how long, but the Reliak could have taken the Eye and retrieved the lewensvera.  I was in no condition to stop him.” It was possible that the protection amulets Xander wore had been a deterrent, but Giles had always had a very liberal policy regarding what Xander chose to share with them.  He’d never pressed for details unless he felt it was urgent, and Xander had never offered anything that wasn’t needed. They both benefited from that arrangement.

“This can’t be the lewensvera, Xander.  It’s…well it’s not the right color, and, the lewensvera is supposed to be a mystical artifact with powerful protective abilities.  I can’t see how it could have broken like this.”

Xander tilted his head and looked at the box, assuming the shards were still inside.  He still saw nothing but the soft glow of the box itself. If there were mystical properties, they were gone now.  “It’s the lewensvera. I’m sure of it.”

He knew what he was talking about.  Not only because Ronar had confirmed as much during their trip back to the watchers, but also because he knew how the crystal had shattered, and he remembered that feeling that crested over him.

He wasn’t an idiot, no matter what some still believed because he had refused the Watcher training, and didn’t utilize their library.  His knowledge was different and came from more accurate sources than books. Of course, he had never shared that information with anyone at HQ and he wasn’t going to do so now.

Still, he didn’t know how or why, but he was almost one-hundred percent certain that whatever abilities and protections the lewensvera had, had now been absorbed somehow, and they were in Xander. He remembered the blue-green of his own aura, similar to that of the lewensvera.

“I need to research this.  Perhaps there is more about the lewensvera I didn’t learn.”

Xander wanted to tell him to leave it be that there was nothing to be learned that would change anything.  However, he had known Rupert Giles a long time, and he wouldn’t be ready to admit that until he’d spent several days going through his books.

“Okay.  You do that.”  Xander agreed.

He watched the gray leave the room without another word and returned his gaze to the ceiling.  He wanted to return to his room, maybe gets some sleep, but he knew Willow wasn’t finished with him yet, and he’d prefer to deal with that head-on, and not be cornered in his room, no matter how transient the space was.

Willow found him a few hours later.  He had been examining things in the library.  Some of the books had a glow to them, similar to the way living things did, but different.  He thought it was maybe because some of those books had magical properties of their own, or protective magic, to prevent them from leaving the library or from being damaged.

“I found a spell, Xander.”  Willow started. “It should fix this…”  She trailed off, probably not sure how to describe what had happened.

“Willow, no.   This can’t be fixed.”  Xander reached out a hand to towards his old friend but he just met air.  He watched as her green and black swirls of color moved backward, and he realized she had stepped out of the reach of this hand.

“I can fix it.  I just need…” She paused, her voice cracking.

Xander was about to reiterate that this, whatever had truly happened to him, and he was just figuring that out himself, couldn’t be fixed with magic.  He was so focused on his old friend that he filed the sound of moving fabric from behind as unimportant.

He felt something cold and inert nearing and then he heard a snip, and then the body from behind him was moving away.

“Thank you, Lorraine,”  Willow said, her voice still sounding upset, but he could also recognize the sound of Willow’s determination.

He turned away from her and towards where he could sense the other body.  The color pattern was tiny bits of red and gray in a mostly black swirl. Lorraine Randolph then.  Xander had never felt comfortable around her. She reminded him of Caleb. There was just something odd about her.  The way she looked at him sometimes bothered him. The fact that there was a slayer that reminded him of an agent of the First was disturbing on so many levels.

“What have you done?”  Xander turned back to Willow.

“What I have to,”  Willow said and turned and walked out of the room.

A whistle sounded to his left, and he turned towards it.  Something glowing softly was moving towards him rapidly. He held out a hand, and the Eye flew into his hand.  As soon as his fingers grasped around it, it resized itself to full length.

There was a soft gasp from behind him and Xander turned.  Lorraine was still there. He could see her color pattern. “You can leave now.”

Xander could see the color pattern shift as he got this sense that she was angry.  Xander moved the Eye in front of him, his fingers gripping the top, near one ring of runes. “Trust me when I tell you whatever you’re thinking right now, isn’t a good idea.”

He heard of huff and then felt her toxic energy moving away. Once she was gone Xander sat heavily on the couch and reached into his pocket for his phone.

“Call Ronar.”  He said to the phone.

He heard the sound of the phone dialing, a specific type of beep, and then it connected.

“Xander?”  Ronar’s voice answered immediately.

“I need a pickup and a safe location.”  Xander sighed as Ronar confirmed he was on his way.

The knowledge that he had somehow taken in the lewensvera was just one more reason why the Watchers HQ was not somewhere he wanted to be, especially after the disconnect with Willow.  He didn’t want to be there when she did whatever she was planning. She had his hair now, so who knew how that would affect her spell?  He knew, even after all this time, and the things she had learned, the price she had paid, she still turned to magic first.

He also knew that what had happened to him, was natural, if any of his mystical life could be considered such.  Whatever had changed in him, there was no going back, and he’d given up on fruitless obsessions a long time ago.

He made his way from the room Willow had cornered him in and towards the front of the house.

“You’re leaving?”  Elis asked as he made his way carefully down the stairs in the front of the castle.

Xander smiled to himself but didn’t respond until he had made it to the bottom.  “Yes. Willow is in quite a state, and Giles is going to research further. They have no need of me.”

Xander felt a rush of affection and understanding just before her fingers touched his elbow.  

“But you know that their efforts are for naught.”  Elis looped an arm through his. “Yes, I think you’re right.  I’ll walk with you.”

Xander turned towards her for the first time since his return and got a look of the pattern of swirling colors in the seer.  Three different shades of gold with a deep green etched throughout. He wasn’t surprised in the least.

“How do I look?”  Elis asked in obvious amusement and a tiny bit of curiosity.

“Gold, lots of gold, and some green.”

“Hmm.  Yes, that does make sense.”  She gripped him a little tighter before continuing.  “And do you trust what you see? Do you trust me?”

Xander waited until they were farther away from the house before he answered.  “I do trust what I see, but Elis, I trusted you before now. That hasn’t changed.”

“Hmm.”  She hummed again.  “Did you?”

“Yes.  I may not have always liked what you told me, or let your words affect my actions, but I did trust in what you saw, and in your advice and wisdom.”

They had reached past the drive and to the gate, softly shining in wards and protective magic as they both stopped.  Elis placed a hand on his cheeks and kissed his forehead. “I don’t believe we’ll see each other here again.”

Xander tilted his head.  “Not here, no, but we will see one another again.”

He saw her gold shifting slightly as she moved away.  “Be well.”

Xander waited until she reached her own car before turning back to the gate and stepping through the side pedestrian gateway.  He saw the russet color blended with white that represented Ronar and made his way over. He was ready to leave.

“Are you going to be alright here, alone?”  Ronar asked as Xander was trailing his fingers across the walls, trying to map the place in absence of colorful energy signatures.

Xander nodded.  “Yeah. It will just be for a few days until I figure out what Willow is planning.”

“And you can figure that out from here?”  Ronar asked, the hesitance in his voice obvious.

“I think that whatever she is planning, will happen no matter where I am, and I’d prefer to be on my own to deal with whatever it is.”

Ronar huffed and said something unflattering in his native tongue.  Xander laughed but didn’t stop his examination of the room.

“Call me if you need transportation, or…anything else,”  Ronar said finally.

“Of course,”  Xander responded in the Frehven dialect used for personal and familiar conversation. Xander listened as Ronar left the room and eventually the building.  He had no doubt that Ronar would keep an eye on Xander, regardless of his wishes, and that was fine. Xander had no idea what was coming, and he didn’t mind a little back-up.

Xander was meditating on the floor in the living area of the house he was staying in, waiting for Willow’s grand plan to manifest; both hands were resting on the Eye of Trevahmon when there was a rumble.  He opened his eye and looked around to see if there was anything that would be visible to his new sight. There was nothing at first, then there was a second rumble and he could see something happening in front of him.

There was a spot of energy about a meter directly in front of him. It was a bronze color and was expanding as he watched.  He stood and backed up slightly, his fingers flexing on the Eye. He knew that this was Willow. This was whatever magic she had decided would fix him.

When the swirl of magic was about two meters in diameter, there was a small flash of something, and it looked like something was coming through the bronze swirl.  It was hard to tell what it was, exactly, with his vision as altered as it was. It could have been a person or a mystical artifact.

The object was a swirl of purple with gray going through it.  After a moment, Xander noticed a second swirl of color. This one was also purple, but it mixed with white and red.

Xander sat back on the couch and waited, the Eye held in his grip tightly.

Suddenly the bronze swirl disappeared and the intermittent rumbling stopped abruptly.  The two purple swirls of energy resolved themselves into what Xander could recognize was two people.

He heard labored breathing and a grunt as well as the sound of a weapon of some kind.

“Who the fuck are you?” The question was rasped out in shock and irritation.

Awesome.  Willow had kidnapped two people from…somewhere.

Willow Rosenberg frowned at the mixture in the bowl in front of her.  It hadn’t changed color like it was supposed to, but she knew something had happened.  She felt the magic go through her, and the candles had winked out.

She knew something had happened.

However, she wasn’t sure if the spell worked.  The mixture in the bowl was supposed to change color, but it hadn’t.  She supposed the only way to know for sure was to see Xander.

She stood, closed her ritual circle and put her supplies away before going up to Xander’s room.  The house was quiet today. All the Slayers-in-Training were on a field trip with about half the Watchers-in-Training, so the place was mostly empty.  

It was at times like this where Willow could sort of understand why Xander was so uncomfortable in the house.  He had never said anything, but she could tell. Every time he came home, Willow tried to make sure he understood that he was wanted and he could stop running or escaping, or whatever he’d been doing these last several years.

She wanted to insist that he didn’t need to keep going out there.  Tell him there were other people to do what he did, but if she was honest, that wasn’t true.  Sure there were people that could have gone out and tried to acquire the things they needed, but no one who had tried ever even came close to Xander’s results.  They didn’t have the luck he had finding things, or in acquiring them for the prices he did. Everyone else found fewer items, and the Council paid more for them.  She wasn’t sure what Xander’s secret was, but if she couldn’t cure him, it would be a moot point. Her old friend couldn’t continue as he was if he remained blind.

The witch held in a sob as she thought about that.  No, her spell would work. She just needed to find Xander and see the results for herself.

Willow took a deep breath as she reached the third floor, where Xander’s room was, away from other Slayers and Watchers.  Her old friend seemed to find the others in the house discomfiting though he never told her why.

She knocked on his bedroom door and waited.  When there was no answer after a minute she sent her mind forward but found nothing.  Not as if the room was empty but as if she had hit a wall, a barrier keeping her out.

She knocked once more, harder than before and waited.  When still no answer came she tried the doorknob and found it unlocked, which bothered her more than she could say.  Xander always locked his door whether he was in it or not. The only exception was when he was expecting company. He would usually leave it cracked open on those occasions, but it wasn’t cracked now.

She stepped inside and looked around swiftly.  It was empty, not just of Xander himself, but of his things as well.  He never left personal items behind, and as a result, he didn’t always stay in the same room, but he always carried at least one bag, sometimes two.  This trip he’d had two, plus as far as she knew, he still had the Eye of Trevhamon.

She had suggested that he turn it over to Marcus, the Watcher who was in charge of the artifacts repository, but Xander had declined, claiming the staff was better off in his custody.  Willow was going to try to persuade him to see her point later, but…now he and the Eye of Trevhamon were gone.

Where did they go?  Why did Xander leave the safety of the house?

Willow frowned and decided that she’d need to do a scrying spell to be able to locate Xander.  Hopefully, he was okay, and she could find him quickly. Who knew what type of trouble he was in, blind and alone?

“She’s sleeping.”

Xander nodded and waited.  He kept a careful eye on the man, well as much as he could given present circumstances.  He could feel the exhaustion and confusion coming from him, and a sort of leashed power that he hadn’t felt before.

Xander watched the gray shift within the purple, and he heard the sound of someone sitting.  The man, whose name he still hadn’t gotten, had agreed to hold off on any violent response until he’d gotten the woman settled.  Apparently, they’d been through a war of some kind. Xander could smell blood on them both and the woman was injured, pretty badly from what he gathered, but the man didn’t seem concerned.

Xander could tell the man was angry and strung out, but he probably didn’t think Xander was a threat.  His current blindness seemed to have that effect on people. Still, the man hadn’t turned his back on him and had even insisted Xander remain in his sightline while he set the woman up in one of the rooms.

“You want to tell me what the hell I’m doing here, or where here even is?”  The man asked.

Xander huffed out a breath.  “I think a friend of mine cast a spell and pulled you from wherever you were.  I don’t imagine that was her intention if that helps.”

“It doesn’t.”  The man grunted.

“As for where you are,”  Xander continued. “You’re in the United Kingdom, on Earth.  However, it’s probably not the Earth you know.”

The man blinked at him.  “Okay. Magic?” He asked skeptically.

Xander snorted.  “Yeah, well that’s not as crazy as it sounds.”

“We’re alone.”  The man stated.

Xander nodded.  “Yeah.”

“So, where’s this friend who brought us here?”  

Xander listened as the man shifted.  He heard him set something down on the table Xander had pushed to one side to keep from walking into it.  “Well, when I realized Willow was going to do magic on me, I left and came here.” He paused. “I’m Xander by the way.”

“John.”  The man offered.  “Do magic on you? This looks more like she did it on me and my sister.”

Xander huffed out a breath and took off his sunglasses.  “She didn’t take my blindness well and was determined to fix it.  I’m not sure how that equates to kidnapping you and your…sister, but magic is funny that way.”

“The blindness is recent?”  John asked as Xander put his sunglasses back on.

“Well, I lost my left eye about ten years ago, but the other one just happened, so yeah.”  Xander huffed and tried to focus on the situation. There was something about this man…John…that radiated some really weird vibes.  And he wasn’t sure if that was an effect of him and his new freaky awareness, or something specific about John. “Where are you from? I mean, probably not here, if you came through a portal unless you just came from another location in this universe.”  He paused. “You sound human…your heart rate is a little fast for human-normal, but that could just be the situation. You smell mostly human if you discount the blood, and you look…well your aura projection is fairly human-normal.”

The man snorted.  “You always talk so much…or just ramble like everyone needs to know what you do?”

Xander relaxed slightly at that.  “Um, not usually, no. When I was younger, I did have a bit of a case of rambling going, but these days…not so much.”

“Okay then.  I am human. We came from Earth though you’re probably right that it might not be the same Earth.  We were on Mars though, so I’m not sure if that affected anything.”

“Mars?”  Xander said in surprise.  “Um, what year is it where you’re from?”  Xander could see the shift in John’s color pattern and could feel a sense of confusion as the man seemed to be examining the room again.  

“2046.”  He said. “What year is it here…now?”

“2013.”  Xander sighed.  “Definitely not the same universe.”

“Maybe we just traveled in time then.”  The man offered.

While that was a possibility, Xander was pretty sure this was a different universe.  “No. I don’t think so.”

“You have experience dealing with other dimensions and time travel?  Enough to be able to tell which it is?”

“Other dimensions, yes.  Time travel not so much unless we’re talking Star Trek.”

“Star what?”  The man frowned.

“It’s a TV show, science fiction.”

“So, how are we going to fix this then?”  The man asked.

Xander watched the colors shift again, and he wasn’t sure if the man didn’t want to get into that or if he had no idea what a TV was.  “Well, first we need to find out what exactly the spell was meant to do, then we can figure out why it did what it did instead.”

A noise came from their left and both men turned towards the sound.  The woman was standing in the doorway to the room. To Xander, she felt confused and a little off-kilter, but not alarmed, which in her shoes, Xander would be more than a little freaked out, unless this was the sort of thing that happened on the regular.  

“Xander, this is my sister, Samantha.  Sam, this is our host, Xander.”

Xander waved slightly and saw a shift in her colors as she seemed to focus on him.  He felt the touch of another mind, analytical and organized. “Huh. You have mental gifts?”

The man shifted slightly and looked at his sister.  “Sam?”

“I, uh…I don’t know.”  She moved towards John and sat next to him.  “I woke up and I could hear you talking and…when I focused on him…it was weird, I felt this barrier like there was a wall in front of me, and then the wall was gone and there was this energy.  It feels contained though, somehow.”

“Huh.”  Xander pulled all his senses back in and sat on the floor.  He could feel the pair watching him.

“You keep saying that.”  John pointed out.

“Yeah.”  Xander waved at his face.  “As I said, the complete blindness is new, but I’m not exactly blind.  I just don’t see like normal people anymore.” He hesitated a second. “I have a sort of Aura vision.  I see colors and shades.”

“Aura vision,” Sam repeated.

“Colors?” John asked at the same time.

Xander grinned.  “You aren’t twins by any chance are you?”

“Yes, we are,”  Sam stated perplexed.

“How did you know?”  John questioned.

“Well, you both responded with the same inflection, and…your auras are very similar, but not exact.  But when you answered just then, for a second, you both sort of…resonated.”

“Explain the aura thing,”  John demanded.

“Well, I see colors, sort of like a projection.  It helps me gauge a person, their personality and intents.” Xander offered.  It was really hard to explain. He hadn’t really told Willow or Giles that part, just that he could no longer see out of his right eye.

“And these colors tell you if a person is good or evil, say?”  Sam asked carefully.

Xander could hear the scientific interest in her voice but wasn’t sure exactly what she was driving at.  John seemed to still when she asked the question, but he wasn’t sure what had caused that either. Maybe just the idea of being able to tell if someone was evil or not.

“Sort of.  But most people, they’re not evil outright.  There are lots of shades of gray. No two people placed in the same situation are going to react the same way.  Their reactions are formed by their experiences. It hard to just look at a person and say they’re evil. This isn’t a comic book or a video game, you know?”

“So,”  Sam began, her colors shifting again in response to her subject change, “You said someone had cast a…spell to bring us here?”

“You heard that, huh?  Yeah. My friend Willow, though I don’t think she meant to bring you here.”

“And she was trying to cure your blindness?”  Sam asked.

“Yes.”  Xander sighed.  “She’s a very powerful witch, and sometimes she doesn’t think things through.”

“Well, we better go talk to her and find out exactly what she did.”  Sam stood. “How do you get around in 2013?”

“Most people drive…vehicles, but I usually have a driver when I’m in town.”

“You don’t live here?”  John asked, standing as well.  He was again examining the room.

Xander wondered again what he was looking for, or what he saw when looked at Xander’s temporary living space.  “No, I travel a lot. I don’t have a home base. Normally I stay at the castle..where Willow is, but when I found out she was going to do magic on me, I left.”

“You said that before,”  John grunted. “This Willow does magic on her friends often?”

Xander huffed out a laugh as he got to his feet.  “More often than we’d like, probably, but mostly she uses her powers for fighting evil.”

Sam tilted her head and stared at Xander.  He could feel that brush of minds again. She felt curious. Xander turned, took off his sunglasses and focused on her.

“You say the word evil like it’s a tangible thing.”  She noted.

Xander watched as John stiffened again.  That was perplexing. That was the second time Samantha had said the word evil and both times John had gotten tense.  “It is,” Xander answered slowly, his eye staring at her, even though his vision was skewed.

There was a knock at the door before anyone responded to Xander’s statement.

“That’ll be Ronar, my driver.”  He moved towards the front door but John beat him there and opened it.  Xander could hear him pick up his weapon again and imagined the man scowling at Ronar.

“Xander?”  Ronar asked quizzically.

Xander hadn’t called Ronar so he knew the man must have been monitoring Xander’s building.  The magic from Willow’s portal was probably detected. “Willow brought these lovely people from another dimension,”  Xander told him as if that sort of thing happened regularly. “I think we should return to the castle and straighten that out.”

Xander could feel John’s curiosity on the edge of his awareness, but his exhaustion was still more prevalent.

“Perhaps they can clean up first?”  Ronar asked as he moved quietly into the room.  “They look like they’ve been through a battle.”

Xander tilted his head and gazed at the siblings.  He had suspected as much, but he hadn’t given it a lot of thought after the initial observation.  “That might be a good idea. There are two showers. One through that room you were in, Sam. The other is down this hallway.  I have some clothes you could borrow, or I can clean those.”

“You have women’s clothes?”  Sam asked dubiously.

Xander frowned.  That was complicated.  He had a couple of pairs of jeans and some tops at the bottom of one of his bags.  Elis had given them to him about a month ago, asking him to hold onto them, because they would be needed, but she didn’t know when.

“I have a friend who gets insight, and she gave them to me,”  Xander admitted. He wasn’t sure what sort of experiences these two had.  He imagined if they were really from a world that was over thirty years ahead then technology would be something they understood.  The mystical was something different altogether.

Xander could feel the weight of both of their stares until the woman stood.  “Okay. Shower it is.” He watched her shift in colors as she moved away from him and back towards the room.  The man was still watching him, but he had a feeling John was the type to observe everything.

“You too?”  Xander asked, turning to face John.  His colors were still and he felt a sort of seeking from him. It wasn’t as free as what Sam had done earlier, it was more guarded, but that seemed on par with the soldier.

“I’ll wait until she’s finished,”  John said finally.

Xander nodded, a small quirk to his lips as he sat back on the floor and began to meditate.  He needed all his equanimity when he went to see Willow.

The drive back to the castle was silent and interesting.  Ronar was silent, but Xander could feel his curiosity, and a tiny bit of concern.  His two visitors were also silent, but he thought that was more because they were a little busy taking in their surroundings.

He couldn’t see them, but he definitely felt their interest and disbelief as the car moved through the streets.  Xander assumed maybe they hadn’t completely believed what Xander told them about where and when they were until they had seen it for themselves.

He didn’t know what life on their world in 2046 looked like, but he assumed it was different than whatever they were seeing out the window of Ronar’s car.

“I believed you,”  Sam said suddenly. “I knew you weren’t lying, but this is just…”

Xander cocked his head to the side.  She sounded positive that he hadn’t been lying.  He wondered how she knew that, especially since they had just met.  Perhaps there was more to his visitors than met the eye.

“We’re here,”  Ronar said as the car turned.  

Xander assumed that he was pulling into the gate.  He heard the window roll down and the beeping of the gate’s control panel.  He had given Ronar his access code when he had originally dropped him off.

“Here?”  Sam asked incredulously.  “Just how many people live here?”

Xander snorted.  “Enough. The place is a sort of training center.”

“Military?”  John asked dubiously.

“Not exactly.  This is where the Watchers and Slayers are trained.”  He hesitated a second, and then just decided to explain.

John turned to look at Xander.  Xander could the feel the observation and the disbelief.

“Vampires?  Demons?” He questioned.

“It’s not as crazy as it sounds,”  Xander stated.

John grunted.  “What you said earlier…about magic.”

Xander shrugged.  “All true.”

“Okay, so magic is a thing, and vampires and demons.”  Sam sounded as if she was preparing herself. “John, it’s not so unbelievable…not after what we just went through.”

“Samantha!”  John barked.

Xander looked from one sibling to the other.  Sam’s colors seemed to be shifting. More purple, less gray.  John’s were swirling around, as if in agitation. His purple was almost completely eclipsed by the gray.

“Okay.  Let’s revisit this after we’ve spoken to Willow.”  Xander said, moving to unlock and open his door.

“Do you want me to wait?”  Ronar asked.

“No.”

“Maybe.”

Xander raised an eyebrow at the siblings’ immediate response and moved so he could see the pale pink of Ronar’s aura.  There were streaks of lavender running through it, which was normal. “If you don’t have somewhere to be, yes, I would appreciate you sticking around.”

The purple shifted as Ronar reached out a hand.  “Xander you know I’m here for you, whatever you need.”

“He can’t come inside with us?”  Sam asked as she shut the door on her side of the car.

Xander paused, about to tell her that they had avoided him coming into contact with Willow.  In the past, both Xander and Ronar felt that it was borrowing trouble to bring him into the castle.  Ronar looked human, but he wasn’t. Xander could feel the difference now, because of whatever the Eye had done to him.  Who knew what someone like Willow could pick up?

Xander nodded.  “Okay, Ronar, come inside with us.”

The demon froze, and the lavender was completely leached from his Aura.  “Are you certain, Kho’ra?”

Xander sighed.  “Yes. I think the time for hiding is over.”

John Grimm did not like these people.  Of course, John didn’t like most people and his recent experience on Olduvai hadn’t helped.  He wasn’t sure how he ended up in this place or time, but he was glad that Sam was with him.

He wasn’t sure how the C24 had changed them, aside from the obvious, but he could still feel the changes coursing through him.  This place, wherever and whenever it was, was filled with dangerous foes, at least if Xander could be believed.

John believed him. One of the things he’d determined came naturally now was detecting deception.   He’d first noticed it when talking to Sarge just before that fight. It was glaringly obvious that he’d lost it, but the sense of wrong that flooded him when Sarge spoke was illuminating.

Sam had lied to him too, but he thought that was just to spare him.   She’d been far more injured than she told him, which was why he injected her with the C24 as soon as Xander had left them alone.  He knew it would take a while to work its way through her system, but he knew that doing so gave her a chance.

Now they were clean and standing inside an actual Castle.  Who lived in a castle? He watched as several women and a man walked by on their way to somewhere.  He watched as the group stopped briefly to look at them and the way they averted their eyes from Xander.

What was that about?

“Xander!”

John watched as a woman came running down the stairs.  She was shorter than Sam and had red hair. There was something about her that was different than the other women who had passed by, though John had no idea what it might be.

“Where have you been?”  The woman asked. “I’ve been scrying for you and you were just…gone.”

Scrying?  John exchanged a look with his sister and stepped forward.  “You the witch that kidnapped us?”

The woman paused and looked at them for the first time.  “What?”

Xander snorted and waved a hand.  “Willow meet John and Samantha.”

Willow looked from Xander to John and Sam.  “Hi.” She gave a weird little wave. “Um, nice to meet you?”

Xander huffed a bit.  “Willow, what spell did you cast?”

John stared at the girl as her eyes went to Xander’s face, where he was once again wearing sunglasses, even though they were now inside.  Her face went pale.

“Uh, your eyes…you’re still blind?”

Xander sighed and John could feel the exasperation from the other man.  Xander took off his sunglasses and stared straight ahead. The woman, Willow, was actually standing a little to his left so after a second he shifted slightly.  John assumed his aura vision told him where the woman was standing.

“Yes, I’m still blind, Will.  Now, what did you do?”

“But…but,”  The woman took a step closer to Xander and reached out a hand.

John pushed her hand away and raised his weapon.  “Stop.” He growled.

The woman stared at him in shock then seemed to take in their whole appearance.

“Willow?”  A man stood at the bottom of the staircase watching them all.  “What’s going on?”

John noted he was older than them, but his enhanced senses told him that he was no less dangerous.

“Giles.”  Xander took one stepped towards the man before John reached out a hand to prevent him from moving further away.

Xander stopped moving and turned to John.  John just stared at him silently, but Xander nodded as if he was agreeing to something John said.  Xander turned back to the man, Giles, returned his sunglasses to his face and smiled in a way that John could tell wasn’t sincere, but it did feel effortless as if he did it often.

“My friend, Ronar.”  Xander waved towards his friend and then towards John. “And this is John and his sister Samantha.  Willow did a spell and they sort of appeared in my living room.”

Willow paled further, and Giles looked flustered. “Perhaps we should go somewhere more private?”

John nodded but waited until Giles had turned and made his way down a hall and into a room.  Willow followed him, but she kept looking behind her to Xander, her hands twisted together.

“Hey,”  Xander whispered.  “We’ll get this straightened out.”

John grunted but followed them into the room, when Sam nudged him.

They ended up in a large room, with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows and various chairs and couches.  John moved towards one couch, one hand on each of his companions. Sam allowed him to man-handle her, and Xander seemed amused by the action, but John didn’t trust anyone in that room aside from his sister and Xander, though he wasn’t sure where his trust of Xander was coming from.

“Now, start from the beginning.”  Giles said, taking off his glasses and beginning to polish them.

John looked to Xander and watched as he stared at Giles and the girl.  He could hear Xander’s heart and it was beating normally, but there was something tense about him, like he was…waiting for something.

“Xander?”  Giles asked.

“The last time I was here, Willow told me she was researching a spell to fix my…blindness.  I told her to leave it alone, that there was nothing to fix.” Xander began.

John noticed that Xander was focused more on Giles now than WIllow.  He wasn’t sure how he knew that, as Xander was still wearing his sunglasses and it was impossible to tell precisely what he was looking at, or what he saw.

Giles turned to look at WIllow.  Her hands were clenched together and her eyes were down.

“I left the castle after that.”  Xander continued.

“Why?”  Willow gasped out.  “You should have stayed here, where it was…safe.”

Xander moved his head slightly and John could feel the irritation coming off of Xander.

“Safe?  You seem to be under the impression that I need to be protected.  I don’t.”

“Where did you go?”  Giles asked, interrupting what would be a staring contest for anyone else, but Willow couldn’t maintain eye contact with Xander.

“I picked him up and brought him somewhere.”  Ronar answered. John guessed he was being purposefully vague.

Giles stared at Ronar for a long minute.  “And you are who exactly?”

“He’s my friend.”  Xander interrupted before Ronar could respond.

“We’ve never met.”  Giles pointed out, but then sighed, “Though you are away a lot, I’m sure you know many people I haven’t met.”

“He’s a demon.”  Willow said suddenly, standing up and lifting her hands.  They started to glow but Xander stood as well and moved in front of Ronar and blocked her view.  “Xander! Move out of the way. He’s a demon.”

“I am aware of that, Willow.”

Willow paused and John could see the confusion on her face.  “I don’t…I don’t understand.”

Xander turned to focus on Giles.  “You send me out to acquire things for you.  Many of the things you’re looking for are either supernatural in nature, or in the possession of people who are supernatural.  How exactly do you expect me to accomplish that without interacting with demons, of all sorts, among other questionable things?”

“Quite right.”  Giles said, looking flustered.  “Can you tell me why you left the castle?”

“I came here from Lokou territory to tell you what happened, what I thought had happened.  Not so you or Willow could fix it, or me, but just to let you know things had changed. When Willow decided she was going to do a spell to fix me, no matter what I thought about it, I realized I didn’t belong here.”

“Xander.”  GIles sighed and sat looking bewildered.  “We never meant for you to feel unwelcome here.”

“I know.  But I am here now to find out exactly what Willow did, because John and Sam did not deserve to be transported, against their will, to a dimension that is not their own.”

“Xan.”  Willow clutched her hands together.  “I don’t know why that happened. You should have been cured.  I don’t understand why it would…” She waved at John and Sam.

“Will, honey, we’ve been through a lot together.  I thought you had gotten past the point where you tried to solve everything with magic.”

Willow started to sob.  “I just…I couldn’t stand seeing you like this.  It wasn’t fair.”

Xander blew out a breath.  “There is nothing wrong with me.  I…I’ve dealt with what happened back in Sunnydale.  And this? This is just something that happened. I’m dealing with it, and you need to accept that when I need help, I’ll ask for it.”

Willow nodded and wiped at her eyes.  “I just don’t understand why it didn’t work.”

“I want to know what exactly you were trying to do.”  John interrupted.

Willow took a deep breath.  “I found a spell. It was supposed to find an answer.”

“An answer?”  Sam asked, speaking up for the first time.

“It said that it would search the universe for a way to help, the answer, and bring it forth, here.”  Willow looked at Sam. “He’s like my brother. Can’t you understand I was willing to do anything to cure him?”

Samantha looked at the younger woman and sighed.  “I understand you were willing to do anything, but your…brother isn’t suffering.  He’s not dying. He didn’t need a cure. And in your quest to help him, you disrupted my life and my brother’s life.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I want to see the spell.”  Xander said suddenly.

“What?”  Willow looked at Xander in confusion.

“Bring me the spell.  I want to see it for myself.”

Willow looked to Giles and Giles nodded.  Once Willow had left the room, he focused on Xander.  “We’ll figure this out. In the meantime, we can set up rooms for your…guests.”

“No.”

“No.”

John looked to Xander when they spoke at the same time.  “I don’t trust you or her,” he said to Giles.

“When we’re finished here, we’ll return to where I’m staying.”  Xander stated.

Giles looked flustered again.  “If that’s what you think is best.”

“It is.”  Xander stood up.  

“Very well.  Um…what about the Eye of Trevahmon?  Marcus told me you didn’t return it.”

“No, and I won’t.  It belongs with me.”

“How are we to determine what happened to you if we can’t examine it further?”

“You’ve had it in your custody for several years, and have learned nothing about it in that time.”  Xander pointed out.

“He’s right.”  

John turned to the doorway and raised an eyebrow.  A new woman was standing there. She had long dark hair and a calmness about her.

“Elis.”  Giles looked confused.  “Did you see something?”

John noticed the inflection on the word see.  He turned to Xander. “This your friend with insight?”

Xander smiled.  “Yeah. Elis, John and Sam Grimm.  This is Elis Caique.”

John noticed that Giles looked confused, but he wasn’t concerned with that.  

Elis stepped further into the room and smiled at the newcomers.  “Ronar. I’m glad Alex is no longer keeping you to himself.”

“Elis.”  Ronar nodded.  “I’m just the chauffeur.”

“I’m sure you’re more than that, Ronar.”  She smiled and then turned to Giles. “The Eye of Trevahmon stays with Alex.  He is it’s keeper now.  They two cannot be separated.”

Giles stared at her in confusion.  John thought he was going to say something else but Willow returned with a book and a notepad.

“Here.”  She handed them both to Giles.

“Let me see.”  Xander said, a hand reaching out for the materials.

“But…you can’t read it.”  WIllow was a little put out.

“Elis, please give me the cliffnotes.”

Elis took the book and and note pad from Giles and she read over the book first and then the sheet of notes.  “Alex, this is a Kre’ot ritual.”

“Of course it is.”  Xander sighed. “We’ll be going now.”  Elis handed the material over to Xander when he held his hand out.

“What?  Where are you going?  We didn’t even figure out what happened.”  Willow said, dismayed.

“I’ll research this myself.  Kre’ot magic is not for everybody, Willow.  It’s possible that something was altered simply because you are not adept at their craft.”

“And you are?”  Willow demanded.

Xander tucked the book and notepad into the bag he carried and turned to her.  “I am familiar with it, yes.”

“But…I don’t understand.”  Willow said, her eyes watering.

“It’s not for you to understand.”  Elis said softly, moving towards Xander and his new friends.  “I’ll walk you out, Alex.”

Xander nodded and looped his arm in hers.  John took one last look at Giles and WIllow and followed Xander out of the room, pulling Sam with him.

Elis Caique stepped back inside the castle and went back into the den that Rupert used as a working library.  It had a fair amount of books, but not as many as the actual library. He found both Willow and Rupert there, looking unsettled.

“Well, excellent job,”  Elis said as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her.

“What?  Elis…what are you talking about?”  Willow asked her, looking upset.

Sometimes it was hard to remember who Willow was because she presented herself in such a way that it was hard to remember that the American had a lot of power.  She had been through a lot and learned much of her power in the past decade. Still, Willow often believed she knew what was best. Sometimes she was right, but sometimes, she wasn’t even close.

“You used an untested spell, against Alex’s wishes, and brought two people from another dimension.”  Elis sighed.

“That wasn’t supposed to happen.”  Willow protested.

“Magic is not universal, Willow.  Different cultures and societies practice different types of magic, different spells, and conjurings.  You cannot use another culture’s magics without first understanding how they work.”

“What exactly are you saying, Elis?”  Rupert asked, his brow wrinkled in thought.

The seer sighed and sat on the same couch that Xander had been sitting on.  She could feel an echo of his frustration and disappointment. She reached inside her purse and pulled out a small book.  It was really more of a journal than anything published.

“I have been content to leave well enough alone for the past five years, allowing Alex to maintain his privacy.  However, the situation we now find ourselves in tells me that perhaps that was an error in judgment.”

Rupert frowned at the woman before turning to look at Willow.  “I’m afraid I’m confused.”

“You are aware that Alex has an…affinity, let’s say, for acquisitions?”  Elis asked, her gaze steady on Rupert.

“Yes, of course.  We have other people out in the field, who bring things back, but that is not their primary function, and they don’t have the same luck with finding the right items and haggling the price down to something reasonable.”

Elis arched an eyebrow.  “That, Rupert, is not luck.  You should know better.”

“Elis,”  Willow interrupted.  “I’m not sure how you know about Xander’s missions and how successful he may or may not be.”  The redhead frowned when Elis stared levelly at her and then huffed. “I realize you have provided valuable information at times, that I have passed on to him, but…I wasn’t aware you…”  She hesitated, visibly floundering.

“Willow.  You know I respect you, and the lengths you’ve gone to in order to learn and hone your craft.”  She paused a second, aware that her next words were going to be a shock. “Did you know that when Ming Jai came to ask me to join the coven, I had originally planned to decline?”

Willow blinked.  She scrunched up her brows in confusion.  “I…what?”

Elis didn’t blame the younger woman for her confusion.  Willow had accompanied Ming Jai on the trip to recruit Elis. At that time Ming Jai was the coven leader, though she had been grooming Willow to take over.

“I knew ahead of time she was going to visit me and ask me to join the coven, but…I’m not comfortable in the coven environment.  My gifts are…temperamental at times.”

“What changed your mind?” Rupert asked curiously.

Elis had no doubt that Rupert was interested in the story.  He wasn’t a member of the Coven, and though many of them provided assistance in their fight, most of that information was relayed through Willow, so he didn’t have a lot of one-on-one contact with the other witches in the coven.

“Meeting Willow did,”  Elis answered.

“What?” Willow looked shocked.  “I don’t understand.”

“You see, I’d been having visions, for weeks before Ming Jai approached me.  What they were about is irrelevant, but I will tell you they involved someone I had, up to that point, never met. That all changed when Willow accompanied Ming Jai to recruit me.”

“Willow was in your visions?”  Rupert asked in concern.

“No.  However when I touched her mind during our first meeting, I got a flash of the person they were about, and I knew that Willow had had contact with him and joining the coven was an expedient way to help me in my desire to aid him.”

“Him?”  Rupert questioned immediately.  “Your visions were about Xander?”

“Yes.”  Elis nodded.

“What…what were they about?”  Willow asked tremulously.

“That, I cannot tell you.”  Elis looked at Willow and her eyes were serious.  “What I can tell you, is that Alex is on the path he is meant to travel.  His blindness is not a handicap, it is a strength. He has taken what happened to him in Sunnydale and learned.”

“Learned what exactly?” Rupert pushed, adjusting his glasses.

Elis stared levelly at Rupert.

“Miss Caique, we cannot endeavor to help Xander if we do not know what you know,”  Giles said sternly.

Elis raised an eyebrow.  “You misunderstand me. I did not tell you this so that you would help Alex, but so that you would understand why he doesn’t need your help.”

“Ronar should be back within the hour. We can leave then.”  Xander said as he pulled his rucksack onto the table and started going through it by touch.  Very few of the things in the bag had an energy he could see.

“How long will it take to get to where we’re going?”  John asked.

“About three days and most of that time is traveling by foot or jeep,” Xander admitted.  They live pretty far from civilization.”

“What is a Kre’ot?”  Samantha asked after a few minutes.  “That’s who we’re going to see, correct?”

“Yes.”  Xander sighed and turned around to face her.  Her red was overtaking the purple and the white was barely visible, probably an effect of the stress and uncertainty.  “They are a species of demon who are at one with their environment.” He reached around his rucksack and found his other bag.  Inside was a sketchbook he sometimes used to make detailed drawings of items he might be interested in. There were also sketches of some of the people he dealt with regularly. “Here.” He handed her the sketchbook.  “The first three or four pages should be people in the Kre’ot village. My mentor will have a better idea of what may have happened, and if there is a way to return you to your universe.”

“There’s a possibility it can’t be done,”  John stated.

“Yes,”  Xander admitted.  “I am adept at Kre’ot magic, but I’m only in the third year of my apprenticeship, so Fleh’mu will have a better understanding.”

“Fair enough.”  John took the sketchbook from Sam and began going through the pages.  “The people with the…antlers?” He asked doubtfully.

“That’s them.”  Xander grinned. “The antler is called a Thambo’li.  When a Kre’ot is about a hundred moons, which is about eight or nine, they shed their Thambo’li, to make way for new adult ones. Once shed, they’re called Thambo’lir and they are fashioned to a tool or a weapon of some sort, depending on the Kre’ot’s skills and apprenticeship.”

“Are you an anthropologist?”  Sam asked suddenly as she began flipping through the book in earnest.  

Xander could hear the pages turning.  But beyond that, he could see the vague glow the book emanated, due to his own energy, that had been imbued while he made the sketches.  

“Not exactly.”  He huffed out a breath.  “I spend most of my time traveling around trying to acquire things for the council, primarily from demons or other non-human entities.”

“In my experience, non-human societies aren’t big on trust, at least not trust of humans,”  John observed.

Xander shifted his gaze from Sam to John, his new vision taking in the lines of color bleeding through the gray.  “You have non-human types in your universe?”

“Yeah.”  John’s color shifted again.

Xander could feel the tension in the room suddenly and decided not to ask any more about that. “You’re not wrong.  It took me a long time to build up a rapport with several of the demon communities.”

“Your…friends have a problem with demons?”  John asked roughly.

Xander wasn’t sure where John’s concern was coming from;  The issue of demons, or the fact that his friends might not approve?

“Well, they know objectively that not all demons are evil and plotting world destruction, but they’ve spent most of the past twenty years fighting the ones who did.  They aren’t really aware of the clan of Kre’ot we’re going to see, or Ronar’s people, the Frehven.

“Were you fighting with them?”  Sam asked curiously.

“Twenty years ago, yes.” Xander took his sunglasses off and ran a hand over his eye socket.  “We all come from a small town far from here. The town was situated on top of a gateway to Hell, so it attracted evil.  About ten years ago the town was destroyed and my friends set up shop here and I’ve been traveling ever since.”

“And your friends don’t really know you anymore.”  John guessed.

“Yeah.”

“You said you were three years into an apprenticeship.  Is that like training for work or work-study in a specific field?”  Sam asked curiously, interrupting.

Xander lifted his hand and moved it back and forth in a so-so gesture.  “Technically, if I was a member of the village then my apprenticeship would be a necessary step in my training, however, I am not Kre’ot by birth though I do have a place in the village due to Fleh’mu’s acceptance of me.”

“And they won’t have a problem with you bringing strangers to their village?”  Sam asked.

“No.  Fleh’mu will understand the necessity.”  Xander turned his unusual gaze to John. “You will have to leave your weapons here, however.  We won’t be able to bring weapons on our trip out of the country.”

John grunted but agreed.

“Elis,”  Giles began, his face in a frown, “What do you mean he doesn’t need our help?.  He’s blind. If we can’t find a way to reverse whatever the Eye of Trevahmon did to him, then he’ll need help adjusting.”

“No, he doesn’t.  Alex has been thriving on his own for ten years.  You may have sent him out in the world on your behalf, but the contacts he has made, the friendships he has formed, and lessons he has learned, all of that is down to him.”

“What…what are you talking about?”  Willow asked, her voice breaking slightly.  “What…who…”

“That is not for me to say.” Elis stood and moved towards the door.  “What I can say is that the reason your other people do not have the same success as Alex is that when they go out to these communities, they are outsiders, and are treated as such.  Alex is not an outsider.”

John was watching Xander meditate in the center of the floor.  He’d been at it for fifteen minutes, and he hadn’t moved much in that time.  His hands were resting in front of him, his fingers loosely wrapped around a weapon of some kind.  At least, John thought it was a weapon. It was about the length of a baton but it resembled a staff, except for its size.  There appeared to be a series of softly glowing markings on both ends but he couldn’t make them out.

“Someone’s here,”  Sam said suddenly.

John shifted his attention away from the enigma in front of him and listened.  He heard footsteps approaching the front door and stood. After a minute there was a knock and John’s eyes moved to Xander.  He still hadn’t moved so John exchanged a look with his sister before he moved to open it.

The woman from the castle was standing on the other side, a bag slung over her shoulder.  Her long dark hair was done up in a tight braid around her head. Ronar was standing next to her.  The woman, Elis, raised an eyebrow and waited patiently. John stepped back and let them in.

“What are you doing here, Elis?”  Xander asked.

When John looked back at the man, he was still sitting in the same position, but clearly, he was aware of his surroundings.

“I’m coming with you.”  The woman said simply.

Xander opened his eyes and turned his body so he was facing the newcomers.  He stared at the woman for a long minute. John wondered what he was seeing. Finally, Xander nodded once and stood up. He did something with his fingers on the device and it suddenly expanded.  Maybe it was a staff after all.

“You’ve become adept with the Eye, Alex.”  The woman smiled softly at Xander.  John had the urge to growl, but he knew that was ridiculous so he continued to stare at her instead.

Xander reached out and touched John on the shoulder in some sort of comfort.  “I’m ready.” he moved towards the table and picked up his two bags. John took one from him before he could protest and moved towards the door.

He wasn’t sure where they were going, exactly, but for some reason he trusted Xander, so he’d follow where he led, at least for the moment.

Willow sat on the couch in Giles private library and flattened the pages of the book Elis had left behind, her brow wrinkled in confusion.

“What does it say?”  Giles asked in irritation.

“I don’t know,”  Willow admitted. “It’s not in English.”  She turned the page. “But, this is Xander’s handwriting.  I…I don’t understand. What…what language is this?”

“Let me see it.”  Giles reached out a hand.

Willow handed over the thin book reluctantly.

“Hmm,”  Giles said after a minute.  He moved over to one of the bookshelves and pulled out a heavy tomb.  After flipping through for several minutes he hummed. “Yes. This looks like Kre’ut spell weaving incantations, sort of.”

“What do you mean, sort of?”  Willow asked, sitting up straight, her back stiff.  Why would Xander have written any sort of magical anything thing in a demonic language?

“Well, this text indicates that no two spell weavings are the same.  Each one is original and specific to the weaver.” Giles explained.

“Why would Elis have a book of Kre’ut spell weavings written by Xander?  Why would Xander have written such a thing?”

Giles sighed.  “I don’t know, Willow.  The spell you used to bring those people here, they said that was kre’ut, where did you get it?”

“Lorraine found it, but it was already translated.  I didn’t know what language it was. She added a few things she thought might help.  But that still doesn’t explain why Xander would have written spell weavings in a demon language.”

“As I said, Willow, I don’t know.  Perhaps we should ask him. It’s possible there are a great many things about his life Xander hasn’t told us.”

Willow thought about the Eye and how Xander had never told her how he had acquired it.  “I guess. I just worry about him, you know? He’s never been the same, not since Sunnydale, and Anya…not since Caleb took his eye.”

“Willow,”  Giles sighed. “Xander is almost thirty-five years old, older than you, in fact.  While you have stayed here in the relative safety of headquarters with the new watchers and Slayers, and your coven, Xander has been out there, in the world, brokering deals with who knows what to bring back items we have asked him for.  Sometimes he brought us things we didn’t request, or information we didn’t know we needed. Do you know what that tells me?”

“No.”  Willow nearly whispered.

“That his contacts are far better than ours.”  Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.  “Would I like to know where he has been and what he has seen?  Yes, but I will not force those answers from him, and neither should you.”

Willow watched as the older man walked out of his own library and sighed.  She grasped what he was trying to say, but she felt that Giles didn’t have the same understanding of Xander that she had.  He hadn’t known Xander as long, nor did he always get Xander, not the way she did.  Or the way she used to. She was honest, at least in the privacy of her own head, that she often didn’t get him anymore.   It seemed like the farther away they moved from Sunnydale, the farther away they moved from each other, and it didn’t matter how much she tried to keep him close or get him to stay in England, he always had one foot out the door.

Sighing, Willow stood and made her way to the other bookshelf, the one where the practical books were kept.  If she was going to help Xander she was going to need to figure out where he was first.

Xander was a little nervous introducing his new friends to his mentor.  He couldn’t even articulate why exactly.  He’d only known John and Sam for less than a week and most of that time had been spent either trying to figure out what had happened or traveling.

The trip back to the Kre’ot had been mostly uneventful and the farther away from the UK that they traveled the more comfortable Xander had become.  He was forced to admit to himself that maybe it was time to stop pretending he belonged with the others. He had made his own way out here in the wild and while he could live in an urban environment, he couldn’t live with the Slayers and Watchers and pretend he was one of them.

“Heads up.”  John murmured.

Xander stopped and looked ahead of himself.  John was about three meters ahead of him and Ronar.  He was dead stopped and his purple was completely overshadowed with the gray.  Xander had come to realize that was John’s tension bleeding through.  Xander looked past him and saw a group of black and red blobs of color.  Xander could tell there were several of them. He moved forward and tilted his head as he examined the sight, analyzing what his new vision was telling him.

“Xander,”  Sam said worriedly.

“It’s fine.”  He said calmly, reaching behind him and grabbing the Eye from the leather carrier John had made for his back.  He felt along the end and pressed several of the runes in succession and it expanded.  He touched another rune and he felt an energy wave crest over them and then the black and red colors winked out.

“Was that supposed to happen?”  Ronar asked cautiously.

“I think so,”  Xander said as he re-sized the Eye and put it away.  “What exactly happened?”

Xander heard John grunt as he moved away towards where the black and red blobs had been.

“They’re dead,”  John said after a minute.

“Then they were a threat,”  Xander said. “Come on, we can probably make the village by nightfall.”

“How do you know they were a threat?”  Sam asked as she hurried to catch up.

Xander paused, unsure how to articulate something he just knew.  “The Eye of Trevhamon is old, older than is known.  It’s sentient, but it can’t function alone.  It could read the intent of those…people. They are dead because they were a threat.  We’re unharmed because we are not.”

“Works for me,”  John said.

Xander looked at Sam and watched as the red and white in her aura filtered out and the purple took up more space, telling Xander she had calmed down.  He hoped Fleh’mu could figure out what Willow had intended because he wasn’t sure how to help these two.

Willow stared up at the building in front of her.  Her tracking spell had led her here, and she knew she was in the right place, but she felt a little nervous.  Not only was this house in a neighborhood she knew was heavy in supernatural activity, but she wasn’t so sure she should be barging into Xander’s space.  She knew he wasn’t comfortable in Headquarters and no matter how much she tried to change that, he never stayed for long. She always felt weird barging into his rooms, even when he was around, and now, given the situation, knowing he had sought sanctuary somewhere else, she wasn’t sure how she felt about entering the space alone.

She knew he wasn’t home.  She could sense that much, but she needed to know more about him and where he might be. Sighing she closed her eyes she reached out with her magic.  She felt resistance, some kind of wards, nothing she had come across before. These weren’t Elis’ magic or anyone else in her coven. Maybe that man Xander had brought with him, the demon?  They seemed to have an otherness about them.  She took a deep breath and pushed harder.  She felt them shatter and she shuddered before entering the house.

Willow looked around once with her normal human senses before venturing further into the rooms in the back.  The place was empty. Completely. Once she had looked in every cabinet and closet and room, she did one final sweep with her magic to ensure nothing had been hidden.  Nothing had. She finally collapsed onto the floor and wept.

Xander was gone.  He’d left and swept the place clean, there was nothing for her here to trace.  If he didn’t return, there was nothing she could do about it.

“Alex?”  Elis asked softly.  She had been speaking to Fleh’mu’s daughter about the situation back in England while her mother spoke to the Grimms and Xander about Willow’s spell.  Elis had kept an eye on Xander and saw when he had stopped speaking and had frozen in place, followed by a shudder running through his body.

“I’m fine,”  Alex called out. He murmured something to John and then turned back to Fleh’mu.

“They are Ro’tun.” She’baru said softly.

Elis turned to look at Xander and John Grimm who were standing close enough to each other that their shoulders were brushing.  She allowed her second sight to flare and saw the way that Xander’s blue-green aura blended with Johns purple. “Yes, they are.”

“And you, Elisabeta Iara, have you seen what lies ahead for yourself?”  She’baru asked pointedly.

Elis felt her cheeks heat as her own gaze drifted to the group speaking with the Kre’ot shamaness.  Samantha chose that moment to look across the clearing and their eyes met. “I have,” Elis whispered to the healer.

“What is it?”  John murmured when Xander froze and then shuddered.  He stepped closer in an unconscious desire to shield the younger man.

“Willow has broken through my wards,”  Xander said on a sigh.

“I thought you said she didn’t know where you were staying.”

“She didn’t,”  Xander admitted.  “But her magic is strong, and tracking me wouldn’t have been difficult.”

“Will she be able to find us here?”  Sam asked in concern.

“No.”  Xander shook his head.  “When I placed the wards, I cleaned the space so she wouldn’t be able to track anything from there.”

“Good,”  John squeezed his shoulder.

“Jesh’ar, this child was asking the universe to bring forth what you need, for balance and comfort, but I fear she added something here which was not in the original spell.”  Fleh’mu pointed to two words handwritten in the margin.

Xander groaned. “That’s never ended well.”

“What’s it say?”  John peered over Xander’s shoulder, brushing against his shoulder.

“Power and strength. In Latin.”  Xander answered, feeling disappointed and wrung out.  

“Why not in the same language as the rest of the spell?”  Sam asked curiously.

“Well, I’m not sure if she even knew what language it was in, originally.  The book she used was partially translated already so she didn’t need to translate it herself, so there was no need for her to learn any of the basics of the language.  Plus, there is no word in Kre’ot for Power or Strength, not in how she used them in this line here. They don’t have those kinds of concepts. I’m still not sure why adding those two things would have brought you here, unless it was the balance and comfort part, what with the whole Ro’tun thing.”

John opened his mouth as if he was about to say something but then he stopped.  “The Ro’tun thing?” John repeated.

Fleh’mu chuckled.  “He means your…bond.  You are as one…do your people not join in this manner?”

John opened his mouth and then closed it again, completely at a loss for words.  Sam snickered at her brother before he scowled at her and shook his head. “Anyway, I think I know why her spell brought us here, and it has nothing to do with any bond.”

“Oh?”  Xander looked interested.

“Sam?”  John looked at his sister meaningfully.  Sam nodded her concurrence and he reached inside the jacket he was wearing when they had arrived.  It had been washed since then, but the soldier seemed attached to it, so Xander didn’t begrudge him his armor.  He pulled out a small vial of a golden liquid. “I think maybe the spell might have interpreted this as a cure.”

“O-kay.”  Xander drew out the word.  “What is it?”

“C24,”  Sam answered.

“Alright, I’ll bite.”  Xander huffed. “What, exactly is C24?”

“Perhaps, Jesh’ar, you and your guests should take this into your tent?”  Fleh’mu interrupted.

“Yeah, okay.”  he led John and Sam through part of the village to the left where the forest branched off.    Elis joined them after a moment, as he knew she would. As close as he was to her, he knew that he wasn’t the only reason the seer had decided to accompany them.

“On our world, twenty years ago, a portal was discovered in Nevada that led to an ancient city on Mars.”  Sam began, “Our parents were researchers who died there. They reopened the portal several years ago, and I went there as part of the science team. I’m a forensic archaeologist and a geneticist. Recently there was an accident in one of the labs and the company behind the research sent a unit of marines to secure the research.”

Xander’s eyes went directly to John and he noticed John’s purple was completely obliterated by the gray, which told him how tense he was.

“We were the only two to make it out alive,”  John grunted.

“Is that when Willow grabbed you?”  Xander asked remembering how they had smelled and apparently looked like they’d been through a battle when they arrived.

“Yes,”  Sam admitted.  “The research they wanted retrieved was in artificial genetics.”  Sam motioned towards the vial John was still holding. “We had found some remains on Mars that showed that the inhabitants had an extra chromosome from humans and that it made them super strong, intelligent, et cetera… we also noted that older specimens didn’t have it.”

“Indicating that it was artificial,”  Elis said. “Let me guess, your scientists tried to recreate it and it didn’t go so well.”

“Not at all.”  Sam agreed. “About ten percent of the population it worked on, but the rest, it mutated into…monsters.  It seemed to be able to judge a person’s integrity, or worth or something.”

“Lovely.”  Xander sighed then narrowed his eye.  “When you arrived, Sam was pretty wounded, but you didn’t seem concerned.  Did you give her this…C24?”

“Yes,”  John said, not even a little apologetic.

Xander didn’t suppose he would be either.  If Sam was injured enough that an experimental drug was her only hope. Plus, Sam seemed like a pretty honest person to him, so it wasn’t much of a risk.  “So, you think the spell interpreted this C24 as the answer Willow was looking for?”

John shrugged.  “I was dying when Sam dosed me with it.  I passed out, for maybe forty minutes, but then I woke up and everything was healed.  You’re not ill or injured, so maybe whatever decides these things thinks it can heal your sight.”

“Maybe, but I lost one of my eyes ten years ago, and the other one was…mystical, and I’m not sure why exactly, but I can’t see with human eyes and utilize my aura vision, and my aura vision is tied to my connection to the Eye, so even if I took this C24, it wouldn’t give me my sight back.”

John looked at him for a long minute before he nodded once, sharply.  “Good enough for me.”

“This is a bre’mulat.”  Mohl’ren demonstrated the different parts of the weapon and then handed it over to John, who took it with confidence.

It was the fifth Kre’ot weapon Mohl’ren had shown him at his grandmother’s insistence and he had taken to them all.  It was odd. Kre’ot weapons were not like weapons of other cultures. They retained the essence of those souls that had wielded them in the past, and as such, it took some time for a new person to become accustomed to their energies.

Mohl’ren recognized there was something unique about Alesander’s John.  He had an affinity for weapons, that was true, but he was also trying to keep himself occupied while Alesander was out of the village.  Alesander had joined Mohl’ren’s sister on a complicated trade negotiation with a rival village on the other side of the jungle. They had been gone many turns and the moon was rising again.

John began to weave the Bre’mulat in an arc slowly, his movements precise and with an air of practice to them.  They reminded Mohl’ren of what Alesander called Katas when he had first come to their village, but not exactly. Suddenly John stopped and thrust the bre’mulat into the ground and turned his head.  There was a whistling in the air as an object came hurtling through the air towards them, too fast for Mohl’ren to make it out. John reached out a hand and the object flew into his hand, spun in a circle and expanded to its full size.

The Eye of Trevhamon

“Why isn’t this with Xander?”  John demanded, standing up and stretching his back muscles out.

“The Venthar are a temperamental people.  They don’t allow weapons of any kind. Our traders must always leave them behind.  Alesander has gone with Rae’vhin before.” Mohl’ren assured.

“Perhaps that is so.”  Elis interrupted. “But the Eye may sense something is wrong.”

“Something is wrong.”  John grabbed the Bre’mulat and walked away from them to make his way out of the village, letting his sense of urgency direct him.  He could hear people following him but he didn’t waste time or energy on them.

When he reached the well-used jungle entrance he stopped for a second but by-passed it without too much thought, deciding to enter the dangerous territory by a less traveled route.  He used the Bre’mulat to guide his path through the dense foliage. Xander’s weapon started to glow and John wasn’t sure if it was because Xander’s situation was urgent, or because it was trying to shed some literal light in the darkness of the jungle.

John felt like something was tugging him forward.  He followed that feeling and hoped he was being overly cautious.  He stretched his hearing out further. He hadn’t had cause to test the limits of what the C24 had done to him and Sam, but he knew it had done more than just saved his life and given him better reflexes.  His senses were sharper. That last fight with Sarge would have gone a lot differently if they weren’t. He also knew that if he pushed himself, there was probably more. For Xander’s sake, he needed to push himself.

He could hear people moving through the jungle, swiftly and there was a barrage of noise he didn’t understand.  Language, probably. Some of it sounded like the Kre’ot native tongue, but some of it was a strange clicking sound that reminded John of a water mammal on some mission he’d gone on for the RRTS. He moved faster, recognizing one of the Kre’ot voices speaking as Rae’vhin, Mohl’ren’s sister and their tribe negotiator.  She was the one who had requested Xander join them for their meeting with the Venthar. John couldn’t understand what she was saying now, but he could hear the stress in her voice.

He broke through the tree line just as the group stopped to re-adjust their load.  There were three of them traveling. Rae’vhin, and two demons of an unknown species.  John assumed they were the ones with the clicking language. The three of them were carrying a travois of some sort, but he couldn’t see it clearly until they had set it down to redistribute the weight.

Xander was on it, covered to the waist in a blanket.  His shirt was untucked from his pants, soaked through with blood, and a bladed weapon of some sort, about half the size of the Bre’mulat was sticking out of his chest.

Fleh’mu stared through the tent opening at her daughter’s patients for a long moment.  Her apprentice, now in a healing sleep and his Ro’tun, looking both furious and devastated. After a moment she turned to her granddaughter.  “Tell me.”

“We entered their borders, and Folani took one look at Alesander and lost it.  She claimed that we violated the agreement, by bringing him into the borders. That he was a Wielder and had to pay. She threw her Sharak and we took him and left.”

“They called him a Wielder?”  Fleh’mu asked. “Interesting.”

“What does it mean, Grana?”  Rae’vhin asked.

Fleh’mu motioned towards the men.  “The Eye of Trevahmon has chosen my Jesha’r.  He can wield its power. I find it interesting that they could recognize that even though he left the Eye behind.”

“Is he still in danger?”  Rae’vhin asked worriedly.

“No.  That was a fatal blow.  The Venthar have no reason to believe that they were unsuccessful.  It is only because of his Ro’tun that he survives. In any case, I doubt the Venthar will live long enough to regret it.”

Xander woke up disoriented and feeling as if he wasn’t in his own body.  He’d had an out of body experience once, and one time he’d swapped bodies with a Slayer in Cape Town.  He didn’t want to repeat either experience so he was hoping this was just minor disorientation and not actually body displacement.

“Easy.”

Xander recognized that voice as Samantha.  However, Xander didn’t think Sam had been with him last time he’d been conscious…whenever that was.  When was that? He cast his mind back, but there was weirdness. He felt…odd. Disoriented, but not cloudy.  He felt like he’d slept for days, but not groggy. He felt like he’d been through a fight, and strangely, his eyes felt heavier.  Which didn’t seem to make much sense. He didn’t actually have eyes. He’d refused to have any sort of implant after the first incident in Sunnydale, and after the more recent incident, he’d had Ronar take him to a mutual friend who was both a modern surgeon and a priestess for her tribe.  She’d examined him and removed the dead tissue when she had realized that his new abilities were not a function of his eyes at all.

So, that brought up the question, why then, did his eyes feel heavier than they had in ten years?

“I know you’re awake.”

Sam again.  Xander sighed and began to move.  His muscles were weird. Not tense exactly, but they felt more…there.  It was hard to explain, even inside his own head. “I’m awake. What happened?”

“You were stabbed,”  Sam stated bluntly.

Xander had a flash of red and rapid Venthari and then pain.  He remembered the pain. “Yeah, I remembered the stabbing. “Folani was furious that Rae’vhin had brought me with her.  She knew what had happened to me, and considered me a threat.” He paused. “But I don’t really remember what happened after that.”

“How do you feel?”  Sam asked, helping him up.

“Good.  Odd, but good.”  Xander reached out towards her.  “Where’s John? I expected him to be…here, but, he’s not, is he?”  Xander couldn’t exactly explain the sense of John he had, but he definitely had the feeling that John was far away…and engaging in something…aggressive.

“Oh, he’s off killing things,” Sam said in an offhand way.

Xander sat up with a start.  “Uh, he’s not going after the Venthar is he, because that was really a misunderstanding.”

“No. Don’t get me wrong, he thought about it, but Elis suggested he wait to talk to you before he did anything crazy.”  Sam squeezed his shoulder gently. “Mohl’ren’s Ro’tun?” Sam hesitated over the word, “was going on a hunting trip. He said there was some sort of animal not far from here.”

Xander nodded.  “Yeah. It’s similar to a bison.  Okay. So, why do I feel, kind of stretchy?”  He moved his arms and shoulders around trying to feel how everything fit together.

“What about your eyes?”  Samantha asked, not answering his question.  She stepped in front of him and touched his forehead with her fingertip.  

He couldn’t see her clearly, just the weaves of purple and red and white, though now there was a halo of gold and green surrounding her.  Xander guessed that was Elis’ influence. “My eyes? They’re the same as they’ve been since I bonded with the Eye. Why?”

“Hmm.”  Sam tilted his head up and he felt like she was staring at him and then he felt something wet in his eye, or on his face.

“What?”  He moved his fingers up to touch.  “I have…I have eyes. I don’t understand.”

“But your vision is the same,”  Sam noted.

Xander looked at her. And then looked around the room.  He found the entrance to the tent. And moved towards it.  Moving the flap aside, he stepped out into the outside and swept his gaze into what he knew was the familiar village.  “Yes. The same as it was before we went to Venthar.” He turned back to her “You were expecting something different?”

“So, the C24 didn’t repair your vision, just like you told us it wouldn’t, though it did grow you two beautiful, useless eyes. Go us.”

“You gave me C24?”  Xander asked, making his way back inside the tent.  He lay on the ground, breathing deep, trying to think about what might have happened.

“John did.”  Sam corrected.  “As I said, you were stabbed, and he…well he felt it.”

Xander sighed.  “Of course he did.”  He ran a hand through his hair and it felt weird to have eyes again even if he couldn’t see out of them.

“Xander, I know we haven’t known each other long, but…if he hadn’t used the C24, you would have died.  You can’t blame him for that. It wasn’t about your eyes, or your sight. He doesn’t care about that.”

Xander sighed.  He could see Sam’s haloed form crouched over him and heard the earnest tone of her voice. “I don’t blame him, Samantha.  I know he doesn’t care about my sight. I just…I wish it wasn’t necessary. I wish, he had more time to take this place in and really appreciate it like I do before something like this happened.”

“Oh, sweetie.  I think he gets it.  He’s spent a long time running from our past, but he sees how much of a family you’ve made with the people here.”

“I hope so.”

Xander was meditating when John returned.  He had felt him getting closer to the village but was trying to concentrate on his meditation.  He was having trouble finding his center. His skin felt odd. Almost like his muscles were too tightly packed, too dense, but he didn’t feel stiff exactly.  It was just odd.

“You’re not concentrating.”

Xander breathed out and relaxed his posture.  “I’m trying. But I feel weird.”

“Like there’s not enough room inside your skin for all your muscles and blood vessels?”  John chuckled. “Yeah, I’ve been there. It’ll get better.”

Xander sat up.  “So that’s the C24 then?”

“Yeah.  Sorry about that, what with the not asking.”  

“No.”  Xander reached out toward the purple.  He could see the vague halo of blue-green outlining the purple. “I know you didn’t have time. Besides, according to Kre’ot culture, decisions like that, matters of life and death, are yours to make if I am unable to make them.”

John snorted and leaned forward.  “I don’t know if you noticed this, but I am not Kre’ot, and neither are you.  We’re both missing rather impressive Thambo’li.

Xander reached a hand up and pulled John forward so the other man tumbled down on top of him.  Xander had a firm grip on his neck, his other hand had reached around and held his hip in place making sure John only went where he wanted him to. Xander opened his mouth just as their lips met and John groaned into him.  They kissed for a moment before John slid to his side. “You fight dirty.”

“All’s fair in love and in war.”  Xander laughed. “And in point of fact, as far as the people in this village are concerned, or any other Kre’ot community, we are in fact Kre’ot.  I am Fleh’mu’s successor. It will be another decade before she’s ready for the Voh’lar rite, but her wishes are known.”

John hummed.  “And the fact that you were not born a Kre’ot doesn’t matter?”

“No.”  Xander shook his head.  “What matters is the path and the fact that I follow it, and I have followed her teachings and will continue to do so.”  He huffed. “I’m sure my bonding to the Eye hasn’t hurt me any, but they honored my place as her successor long before that happened.”

“Okay.”  John traced the marks on his face slowly.  “And what of your…friends?”

“I want to make one last trip to England.  I’m sure Elis would like to as well.” Xander admitted.

“To what end?”  

Xander smiled as he watched John’s colors shift, the grey taking over.  “I owe them one last visit. If Willow brought you here as some sort of effort to cure me, she did ultimately do me a favor.  Either because the C24 saved my life, or because she brought me you.” Xander ran a hand through John’s hair and felt him shift slightly.

“Agreed.”  John kissed his fingers.  “But no more magic.”

By the time the group made it back to the castle they had been gone for almost three weeks, so they weren’t really sure what kind of situation they were going to be walking in to.  Xander wondered if Buffy had been called. On one hand, he thought maybe they would have called, but on the other, Willow would have figured out there was nothing Buffy could have done and bringing her in at that point would have just been an added frustration.  Calling Dawn might have been the smartest move they could have made because Dawn had actually been to the Kre’ot village and she had contacts with both the Frehven and the Venthar. However, the people at Headquarters knew less about what Dawn did in the field than they did about what Xander did.

“The coven is here,” Elis said as they entered the gate.

Ronar looked at her through the rearview mirror as Sam held her fingers tightly.

“They’re in the ritual room in the basement,”  Elis said.

“Can you tell what magic they’re working?”  Xander asked worriedly.

“A finding,”  Sam said, in a tone that clearly told everyone in the car she wasn’t sure how she knew that.

“Yes, they’re doing a searching…for you, I think, Alex.”  Elis finished.

“Alright, then.”  Xander reached into the rucksack at his feet and pulled out the Eye.  He looked at the glowing energy at either end and started pressing the symbols in a specific sequence and it began to hum, the tones almost too low for anyone to hear.

The energy field it released was quick and stretched far, farther than the last time Xander used the Eye in this manner.

“Let’s go,”  Xander says. “They’ll only sleep for an hour.”

They entered the castle and found Giles in his library sitting at his desk, looking a little bewildered.  No doubt he had felt the energy wave and wasn’t sure what had caused it. “Elis, take John to collect Willow from the basement.  I’d like to have this settled before the others start to awaken.”

“Xander?  What’s going on?”  Giles took his glasses off and began to clean them.

Xander smiled sadly.  “You remember my friends Samantha Grimm and Ronar?”

“Yes, of course.  Willow said you’d left town.”

“I did, but something happened I wanted to talk to Willow about.”

“I told her to let you be for a while.  She didn’t do something else did she?” Giles asked, alarmed.

“Well, she was down in the ritual room casting a spell to find him when we arrived, so it’s possible she might have intruded on my sanctuary had she located me, however, she was not involved with what happened, no.”

“Oh.”  Giles frowned.

“We do think we figured out why her spell brought me and my brother here.”  Sam offered.

“Have you figured out a way home?”  Giles asked.

“We won’t be going home,”  John stated as he brought an unconscious Willow into the room and set her down on the couch.

“Oh good Lord.  What happened to her?”

Xander stepped closer to her and pressed three of the runes and then touched the Eye to her forehead.  Willow’s eyes fluttered and then she opened them.

“Xander!”  She sat up.  “You’re here!  But, we haven’t even done the ritual yet, and…”

“Willow.”  Xander sighed. “We came to say goodbye.”

“What?  No.” She reached out for him.

Xander knelt in front of her and took off his sunglasses.  “I love you, Willow, but I can’t be what you want. My eyes may look as they did when we were in high school, but they will never see the same.”

“But how did you…they re-grew, or are they implants?  I don’t understand.” Willow started to cry.

“They’re real.  But, my vision, the way I see now, it’s meant to be, so that will never change.  How it happened doesn’t matter. Though, I do owe you. You brought Sam and John into our lives, so thank you for that.”  He got up and moved away.

“You’re just going to leave?”

“My place is elsewhere now, so yes.”  He moved towards Giles and gave him a hug even though it caused John to growl.  As he moved towards the door he stopped. “Oh, and Willow, your coven will awake soon.  I don’t know if your ritual would have worked or not, but if you try to find me, and are successful, you won’t be welcome. Just, be cautious.”

Elis waited until John, Alex, and Ronar and left before she looked at both Rupert and Willow.

“I was a member of your coven for many years, Willow.  I saw much growth and many amazing things, however, I also saw how you refused to see how Alex had grown and changed and stepped away from who he used to be.  He’s not the young man he was in high school. If you don’t heed his warnings, you will awaken something that you are unprepared for.

“Elis, I know you mentioned that you joined the coven and stayed because of your visions and that Xander played a part in that, but why are you going with him, really?  Where are you going?” Giles couldn’t imagine where Xander had been. He was completely off the grid as far as any of their supernatural contacts could tell them.

“There are things in this world, in the mystical world, that even the Watchers and the Slayers, and those that help them, are not yet ready to know, Rupert.  The connections Alex has made these many years are among them.” She smiled sadly and walked away, Sam following silently behind her.

When they had left the gate Xander reached out to Elis, her gold and green now haloed by the purple, red and white of Sam.  “You didn’t have to give them even that much information.”

“Rupert means well, and I fear Willow will not heed your warning.  At some point, the coven will become involved, and worse still Buffy.”

Xander grunted.  “I’ll need to contact Dawn so she knows what really happened.”  He sighed. “For now, let’s go home.”

He lay his head back into John’s shoulder and tried to get some rest, it would be a long journey.

The End

Bre’mulat Sword-like Krea’ot weapon
Frehven A demon who can pass for human; a society of scholars-value knowledge above all else.  They are a ruminant species and have (something) on their anatomy which makes it clear they aren’t human if one saw them without clothes.
Jesha’r Kre’ot term of endearment, liken to young one, but that is reserved for a student or apprentice
Kho’ra Frehven word that means brother.
Kre’ot Demon (has thambo’li attached to the skull).
Lewensvera Crystal, seven to eight centimeters in diameter, marbled in blues and greens, similar in appearance to azurite malachite. It’s believed to be mystical in nature and to have protective properties
Reliak Demon – speaks in a language made up of clicks
Ro’tun Kre’ot word for soul/heart mate
RRTS Rapid Response Tactical Squad – Unit of Marines John Grimm was a part of on his world.
Sharak Venthar weapon; ceremonial short blade, similar to a dagger, very sharp, and coated with poison.
Thambo’li two bony protrusions, on the head of a Kre’ot, similar to horns or antlers.  
Thambo’lir The first set of thambo’li which sheds during puberty and is made into a tool or weapon, depending on the discipline of the Kre’ot.  The thambo’lir is a mystical item and contains the life-energy of the Kre’ot who shed it.

The thambo’lir is forever tied to the Kre’ot, and if that connection is broken, the Kre’ot will die.  When a Kre’ot dies, the thambo’li lose all mystical properties, and the life energy has departed

Venthar Demon species that lives on the other side of the jungle from the Kre’ot.  Temperamental and aggressive but don’t allow weapons of any kind within their borders.

Kylia

Dedicated pantser, who has a fondness for the underappreciated unicorn in every fandom....and a few of the appreciated ones.

One Comment:

  1. great world-building. i love it. thank you.

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