Ted Forrester was not happy about his latest case. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say Edward wasn't happy, because the whole point of Ted Forrester was to be a cover existence for Edward, but that was a bit complicated. Ted had been hired to kill a rogue shape shifter, allegedly some sort of wolf, but not quite the same as normal. The situation had sounded so simple: find this Warren Matthews and kill him.
He knew all about hunting for shape shifters, use silver bullets and a long range rifle, and don't miss. Shifters had easily ten times the raw physical strength of a human, and knowing several dozen ways to kill somebody wouldn't do much good if he'd just had his arm ripped off by an angry werewolf that he'd only nicked. No, with shifters, you shoot to kill, preferably from a bit of a distance. He'd been fairly simple to find, and the matter of setting an ambush where he could shoot him had been almost pathetically easy.
Warren had got up and shaken himself off after taking a round in the heart, another in the lung, and a third in the throat. Just... got up, coughed up some blood, shaken of the dust and walked away. It was supposed to be impossible. It had been. the first thing in a long time to make the hair on the back of Edward's neck rise.
Almost immediately, he'd began attempting to figure out what had happened. The bullets had been silver, although with the shifter in human form a bullet through the heart should have been fatal even if it had been lead. Considering that he'd been in broad daylight, there wasn't the possibility of him being a vampire. So, what in the hell had happened? And WHY hadn't the person hiring him... hiring Ted mentioned this little immunity to bullets?
His urgent questions gathered a few answers. Apparently, warren had been a second rate sorcerer before becoming a werewolf, and had continued to practice. That would have been fine and legal, except that he was 'strongly suspected' of having slipped into sacrifice, possibly even human sacrifice. There were rumors of disappearances, and one source had been able to confirm what he'd called a 'demonic taint' to Warren's aura. He was also the prime suspect in a string of murders that had the look and feel of some sort of dark magic.
Warren Matthews had managed to conjure or tap some sort of demon to make himself nearly invulnerable. Only a silver blade could hurt him, and only a mystically blessed silver blade could kill him.
This was almost welcome news. All he had to do was find the most powerful sorcerer or witch that he could pressure, buy or persuade to bless a silver sword for him to kill a werewolf with... And he had to hope that whoever it was was stronger than Warren Matthews. That ruled out the magic users who owed him. He'd have to try persuasion of some sort instead.
So, he began looking for a very powerful magic user, while still attempting to find another way to kill Warren. Frustratingly, he wasn't finding any other methods, and none of the witches in the area were strong enough.
But Constanza had some information. She'd heard of a very powerful witch in California, or perhaps a Sorceress. The Willow. But the important parts were the fact that this Willow was the most powerful person Constanza had heard of, and she was staying with the Master Vampire of Los Angeles.
So, it was off to Los Angeles to politely ask a Master Vampire to let him talk to his pet sorceress. Wonderful. He hated dealing with monsters. He packed a very few things, deciding that it would be better to go as Edward, less chance of 'false pretences' that way. Besides, either this sorceress would be frightened or she wouldn't, although why someone living with a vampire would be afraid of HIM... He sighed, and made his travel arrangements.
Once he got into Los Angeles, it didn't take long to discover that the Master of the City was Angelus, and his base of operations was the (former) Hotel Hyperion. He arrived there shortly after dark, asking the pretty dark haired woman at the desk if he could please speak to Angelus, or to Willow. After a bit of time where the receptionist had delayed him for a while, he was permitted to go into a meeting room, with a large table set with chairs, remarkably like a corporate boardroom. Angelus was there, tall, dark hair, and eyes filled with restrained violence. His second, a bleached blond named Spike leaned in the corner, looking like a remnant of the eighties punk movement.
"Since you don't look worried about proper protocol, let's just be direct here. What do you want in my city?" Angelus' voice had a hint of menace, like the undertone of a growl behind his voice. He wasn't trying to threaten, nor was he making any easily apparent attempt to particularly intimidate Edward.
Edward almost smiled. Angelus was willing to skip the tedious formalities of dancing around a subject. Always made things simpler. "I need to borrow your sorceress."
"What?" Angelus looked astonished, and his eyes flickered amber. "What do you mean, you want to borrow my sorceress? You are an assassin, what do you need someone to cast spells for?"
"I'd sort of like to know that one too. Sorry I'm late, Angel, there was this huge line at the store..." A slender woman with red hair had just breezed into the room, dressed in a long flowing skirt in some crinkly light weight material in blue and green, with a pale green tank top over it. A few bits of delicate looking jewelry and bright red hair. She looked like she should be a college student somewhere.
Both vampires gave her an indulgent smile. The blond spoke, one hand reaching out, touching her elbow in a discrete suggestion that she take a seat. "Not a problem, Red. And this bloke was just about to fill us in on what the bloody hell he wants."
Edward felt astonished. This was the Willow? He'd expected someone older, someone dripping with attempted mystery. Not some cheerful looking girl who wouldn't have looked out of place at some bleeding heart liberal rally. "I need a spell. A mystical blessing on a weapon."
Angelus looked at him, dark eyes attempting to measure him for... something. "You can't possibly expect to convince us that there were no other witches or sorcerers near you than Willow? Why her?"
"What do you want a blessed weapon for? I mean, most people only get weapons if they intend to use them, so WHY do you think you need a blessed weapon?" The girl was looking at him, her eyes looking wide and sweet and almost innocent.
"There's a werewolf. He was also a witch, and has done something... bullets aren't working on him. My contacts have said that only a silver blade mystically blessed by someone stronger than he is will kill him. And considering that his lycanthropy and recent descent into the dark side seem to have increased his strength, nobody that I could draw on felt confident that they were strong enough." Edward concealed his grimace. He hated to share so much information. But he'd got the definite impression that if he didn't explain, there would be no blessing.
The blond made a noise that was almost a growl. "Heard rumors about some wolf-witch out west... Going on a bloody rampage, isn't he? Bodies with their hearts carved out? Did the police ever find the hearts?"
The girl frowned, her fingers moving in a way that suggested she was mentally counting something. "The bodies... all adults with no physical defects? Runes carved into the palms? You wouldn't find the hearts... I recognize the ritual. He's... it's a dark ritual to draw their life energy to power his spells. Rather icky by the way."
Edward blinked, feeling as if something was terribly wrong with what he'd just witnessed. She'd known about the runes, which he hadn't mentioned, stated that it was a dark magic ritual, some sort of human sacrifice, and through the whole thing hadn't lost the look of cheerful optimism. She looked like the sort of person who saw the glass as half full, and looked for the best in everybody. "Rather icky... did your reference to this... icky ritual explain where the hearts go? The police have been a bit baffled on that."
"That's half of what makes it icky. He's eating them to draw in the victim's strength. I have most of the things that I would need for your blessing... I hope you have the weapon? I can be ready in... hmmm... give me a half hour." She looked distracted, as if her mind was already elsewhere.
Edward found himself staring as the redhead left the room. "She's... A half hour? I'll be back then with the sword."
The blond grinned, not quite laughing. "Red affects people like that. Don't worry, she's strong enough to cast the spell. Hell, she's a lot stronger than she looks..."
He looked back at the two vampires, not quite meeting their eyes. "If she's so strong, why is she here? Why not be somewhere else, on her own instead of living with vampires?"
Leaning a little bit, the blond made an almost whisper to Angelus. "I don't think he likes us, Sire."
"Willow is here because after she'd retrieved and rebound a stolen soul, banished a few ghosts, and helped fight an Ascended demon, everyone in her home town was petrified of her, including the upstate executioner. She came here because we aren't afraid of her power." Angelus' voice was smooth, calm.
Edward felt his mask of calm crack at those words. To bring back a soul... "She's that powerful, then. Good."
Angelus nodded. "Yes. We keep her grounded. That's all she needs us for, not for physical protection. Once she's done with that blade, I suggest you keep track of it very carefully."
Edward was back in twenty minutes, a long wrapped bundle in his hands. He'd had the sword made specially, and was a bit... curious exactly what would be done to bless it. The blond vampire was waiting, and with a single gesture indicated that he should follow him. They went to a square room, and there was nothing but a few wrought iron candlesticks on the bare wooden floor. Not even a light switch or a window. There was a faint scent that reminded him of apple pie, and after a few moments, he realized it was coming from the candles. Willow had poured a pale greenish powder into a nearly complete circle, and the candles had been placed at four points. He suspected that they would match the cardinal directions, although he'd never quite understood why.
Wordlessly, he handed the wrapped sword to Willow. She slowly unwrapped it, first the paper, then the leather, and finally the last layer, yards of dark grey silk. She smiled, one hand hovering over the blade. "This is good work. Here, Spike, you hold the wrappings."
She settled herself cross-legged in the circle, closing it with a handful of powder from a beaten copper bowl. She then held her hands over the blade, and began whispering in Latin. At first, nothing seemed to be happening, and then he noticed the glow surrounding her hands and shimmering over the sword. He felt something inside himself grow tense at the sight of those little wisps of light.
"I thought... I thought magic didn't have visual effects like that. Only in the movies." His voice was oddly quiet, even to his own ears.
Angelus glanced over, his expression serious. "She said once that for normal magic, to add in those sort of effects is mostly a waste of energy. Some things have a visible effect because of what they are, like conjuring fire. But this... what you're seeing is an effect of pure power."
Willow chanted over the sword, chanting languages several times as she continued. The glow spread, covering her entire body with a pale pearly shimmer, and the circle around her glowed almost as bright as the candles. Beads of sweat glistened on her forehead, and she began the next round in German... except that he still heard her chanting in the Latin. Her voice multiplied, chanting in multiple languages like a gathering of people talking at once. It was entirely eerie. Then she fell silent, and closed opened her eyes, which for a moment looked as pale as the full moon, and almost luminous. She blinked, and her eyes were normal again, and the circle was just a line of salt and herbs. But the room felt warm, as if there were no air conditioner on a June afternoon.
"You now own a blessed sword. Use it very carefully." She held it out to him. "Can one of you guys help me up? I think my legs went to sleep."
Edward took the sword, his hand tingling where it touched. He could feel the difference in it now... although he couldn't put it into words. "Thank you."
The blond vampire had lifted Willow up, and she had sort of fallen against his chest. She looked into his eyes, and stuck her tongue out at him. "You did that on purpose."
Edward looked at them, feeling entirely baffled. They seemed so much like worried people trying to watch out for the girl. Except that they were vampires, and that girl could probably kill with an angry look... if she even got angry. "Thank you, Willow. If you ever need me, contact me. I'll be there."
She looked at him, smiling. "You're welcome... oh, I made this up for you." She pulled a small medallion from the vampires pocket, ignoring his look of mock outrage. Instead she tossed it to Edward. "It won't last more than twenty-four hours when you put it on, but... wear it when you fight Warren and he won't be able to infect you. Or if that isn't a worry for you, keep it for someone else."
All he could do was nod his head, feeling as if she'd just pulled the rug out from under the foundations of his world. He slowly left the hotel, wondering how she could possibly... how could someone like Willow be real? How could she be so cheerful surrounded by monsters?
But that really wasn't his problem. He had a werewolf to find and kill. And this time, it would work.
end Silver Blade.